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External Brain Stimulation Greatly Reduces Risks

by Rachel Levitt


Tags: Science and technology, gadgets, discoveries, health, neuroscience, brain surgery, head injuries, IEEE Spectrum,

NeuronsScientists at ASU in Tempe are developing a new kind of brain cell stimulation, one that uses ultrasound waves instead of internal electrode implants. The technology would eliminate the significant risks of surgery involved with implanting devices, making brain stimulation, which is used to treat a host of ailments such as epilepsy and Parkinson's, more widely available.

Another potential use for low-frequency ultrasound waves would be applied to those suffering head injuries.

“Imagine an infantryman rocked by an explosion or a football player knocked to the ground by a helmet-to-helmet hit," says William J. Tyler, one of the researchers. "Some sensor would detect that there was enough force generated for it to be a concussive event. [This technology] would slow the brain's metabolic rate, [limit the destructive chemical cascade], and prevent cell death.”

By keeping the ultrasound frequency and power low, sound waves penetrate the skull and cause brain cells to temporarily change polarity. That change causes them to release neurotransmitter chemicals, the result being stimulation of brain cells very similar to that caused by implanted electrodes. For those concerned that the waves will be used to enslave the human race (and you know who you are), fear not: The technology only works when extremely close to the subject.

Image courtesy of LorleiRanveig, licensed under Creative Commons.