A groundbreaking study from the University of Plymouth suggests that transcranial ultrasound stimulation (TUS) could significantly impact brain function and potentially pave the way for treating various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and addiction.
What is Transcranial Ultrasound Stimulation (TUS)?
TUS is an emerging technique in which focused beams of ultrasound are used to target specific brain regions.
Unlike traditional ultrasound examinations that involve broad, diffuse beams for imaging, TUS can change the pressure in the targeted area, thereby affecting how neurons communicate with each other.
The Study and Its Findings
Published in Nature Communications, the study involved 24 healthy adults and aimed to explore the impacts of TUS on GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) concentrations within the brain’s posterior cingulate cortex.
The findings indicated significant changes in GABA levels and the way the targeted cortex communicates with other brain areas in the hour following the ultrasound treatment.
However, the effects were not uniform across all brain areas.
For instance, GABA levels remained unchanged in the anterior cingulate cortex, another part of the brain associated with psychiatric conditions but governing different cognitive functions.
Implications for Mental Health Treatment
Senior author Dr. Elsa Fouragnan expressed optimism about the technology’s potential, stating, “One of the long-term aspirations of neuroscientists is to find ways to change activity in only certain parts of the brain while leaving the rest unchanged.”
The study highlights that TUS could provide a more targeted treatment for mental health disorders compared to medication that affects the entire brain.
The research team, which also included experts from other notable institutions, emphasized that this study is an essential first step toward clinical applications.
They are now investigating how TUS might affect the dopaminergic system, which plays a crucial role in decision-making, learning, and behaviors related to addiction.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Siti Yaakub, mentioned that more work is needed to understand the different impacts of TUS on various brain regions.
“This suggests that some TUS protocols work well for certain parts of the brain and not so well for others,” she said.
The study was conducted at the University of Plymouth’s Brain Research and Imaging Center, which opened its doors in 2022.
This research is a part of the University’s ongoing efforts to explore the use of ultrasound in neuroscience and mental health treatment.
While much work remains before TUS can be applied in a clinical setting, this study provides promising evidence that targeted ultrasound technology could be a revolutionary tool in treating a range of mental health conditions.
If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.
The research findings can be found in Nature Communications.
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