Ultrasound allowed to control the behavior of macaques

(ORDO NEWS) — The activity of neurons can be excited by ultrasound: it makes the cell membranes vibrate, prompting them to “trigger”. This – together with their ability to penetrate into the depths of living tissues – allowed American scientists to purposefully affect the brain cells of experimental macaques, remotely affecting its work.

About this Jan Kubanek (Jan Kubanek) and his colleagues from the University of Utah report in an article published in the journal Science Advances.

Laboratory experiments were carried out on a pair of rhesus monkeys, whose heads were fixed motionless. On a dark screen, they showed a bright dot, then the second, on the side of it, and, finally, the third – on the opposite side of the first. Both humans and apes reflexively look at them in order of appearance. However, experimental macaques were trained not to take their eyes off the first point in order to receive a reward.

During the experiments, scientists acted with brief pulses of ultrasound on the front oculomotor fields – areas of the frontal lobes that control the direction of view. As one might expect, when acting on the left field, macaques more often turned their eyes to the right point, and when acting on the right field – to the left.

Moreover, with a similar “processing” of the motor cortex, the animals did not react, which allowed the authors to conclude: ultrasound excites not just a motor reflex, but directly affects decisions made by the brain.

The authors note that the procedure is completely painless. They hope that in the future these high-frequency acoustic waves will find application in the treatment of certain disorders, such as various forms of addiction.

Targeted stimulation of cells in certain parts of the brain will allow them to “reflash” by changing the neural patterns associated with the development of addictions. In any case, ultrasound will provide a new tool for brain research – non-invasive and simple in comparison with optogenetics and other existing methods.

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