Background: With the high spatial resolution and the potential to reach deep brain structures, ultrasound-based brain stimulation techniques offer new opportunities to non-invasively treat neurological and psychiatric disorders. However, little is known about long-term effects of ultrasound-based brain stimulation. Applying a longitudinal design, we comprehensively investigated neuromodulation induced by ultrasound brain stimulation to provide first sham-controlled evidence of long-term effects on the human brain and behavior.
Methods: Twelve healthy participants received three sham and three verum sessions with transcranial pulse stimulation (TPS) focused on the cortical somatosensory representation of the right hand. One week before and after the sham and verum TPS applications, comprehensive structural and functional resting state MRI investigations and behavioral tests targeting tactile spatial discrimination and sensorimotor dexterity were performed.
Results: Compared to sham, global efficiency significantly increased within the cortical sensorimotor network after verum TPS, indicating an upregulation of the stimulated functional brain network. Axial diffusivity in left sensorimotor areas decreased after verum TPS, demonstrating an improved axonal status in the stimulated area.
Conclusions: TPS increased the functional and structural coupling within the stimulated left primary somatosensory cortex and adjacent sensorimotor areas up to one week after the last stimulation. These findings suggest that TPS induces neuroplastic changes that go beyond the spatial and temporal stimulation settings encouraging further clinical applications.
Keywords: Brain stimulation; Diffusion tensor imaging; Functional connectivity; Sensorimotor functions; Transcranial pulse stimulation; Ultrasound.
© 2022. The Author(s).