Ultrasound Can Be Used to Flip Switches in the Brain

Just think of what iPhones and TV’s and computer screens are really capable of or all those funny Non-Cell Towers, that popped up around the country!

It sounds like the beginning of a Stephen King novel: a protagonist bolts up in bed, his unsuspecting brain picking up ultrasound waves crashing in the air. These waves have the power to fry his delicate neural tissue—instead, they silently spark his neurons into action. Horrified, the man watches his arms pull back the sheets as if controlled by an amorphous puppeteer.

Using extrasensory sound waves to alter someone’s actions sounds like a classic sci-fi trope. Yet last week, at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, DC, two teams of scientists presented proof-of-concept data showing that acoustic mind control may be possible.

In both macaque monkeys and sheep, the teams delivered ultrasonic waves across the skull to a brain region the size of a single rice grain. Shockingly, the sound waves interacted with the electrical hum of neurons in the brain, increasing their activity.

By focusing the waves on brain regions that control the eyes or the legs, the scientists could ping-pong monkeys’ gazes and move sheeps’ hind legs.

Of course, playing animal puppeteers isn’t the actual goal. Like other non-invasive technologies, ultrasound lets scientists affect select areas of the brain. Like flipping a light switch, scientists can then explore what happens to our minds when certain neural circuits are turned on and off.

“The advances presented today help expand what’s possible with brain stimulation,” says Dr. Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University, who pioneered using deep brain stimulation for treating depression.

“They open the door to new ways of viewing and probing the brain to improve our understanding of feelings, thoughts, and actions,” she explains.

“We should be looking forward to it.” full article

Comments are closed