Ultrasound to the brain may combat depression


Ultrasound waves applied to specific areas of the brain appear to be able to alter patients’ moods.

The discovery has led to further investigations with the hope that this technique could one day be used to treat conditions like depression and anxiety.

Ultrasound speaks the brain’s language

Dr. Stuart Hameroff, professor emeritus of the University of Arizona’s departments of anesthesiology and psychology, became interested in applying ultrasound waves to the brain when he read a study about the use of ultrasound on animals. Hameroff made a connection: Ultrasound vibrates in megahertz frequencies at about 10 million vibrations per second similar to the way microtubules, protein structures inside brain neurons linked to mood and consciousness, also resonate.

“I said to my anesthesiology colleagues, ‘We should try this on chronic pain patient volunteers.’” His colleagues suggested he try it on himself. He agreed.

Only seconds to feel the difference

After 15 seconds, he felt no effect. “I put it down and said, ‘Well, that’s not going to work,’” he explained. “Then about a minute later I started to feel like I’d had a martini.”

His mood was elevated for the next few hours. He then administered the treatment to a group of volunteers in a double blind study.

Further tests confirmed initial findings

“Encouraging!” said Hameroff. “We’re referring to transcranial ultrasound as ‘TUS.’ This was a pilot study that showed safety, and some efficacy, for clinical use of TUS ... Because important structures called microtubules in all brain neurons vibrate in the ultrasound rage, and help mediate mood and consciousness, TUS may benefit a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders.”

The ultrasound may be stimulating brain activity

“What we think is happening is that the ultrasound is making the neurons a little bit more likely to fire in the parts of the brain involved with mood,” thus leading to a change in how people feel. Further studies will determine how to administer and use the technology. They are envisioning a product which could be worn and used by a person when needed.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Brain Stimulation


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