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Ultrasound directed to the human brain can boost sensory performance
Date:1/12/2014

Whales, bats, and even praying mantises use ultrasound as a sensory guidance system and now a new study has found that ultrasound can modulate brain activity to heighten sensory perception in humans.

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have demonstrated that ultrasound directed to a specific region of the brain can boost performance in sensory discrimination. The study, published online Jan. 12 in Nature Neuroscience, provides the first demonstration that low-intensity, transcranial-focused ultrasound can modulate human brain activity to enhance perception.

"Ultrasound has great potential for bringing unprecedented resolution to the growing trend of mapping the human brain's connectivity," said William "Jamie" Tyler, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, who led the study. "So we decided to look at the effects of ultrasound on the region of the brain responsible for processing tactile sensory inputs."

The scientists delivered focused ultrasound to an area of the cerebral cortex that processes sensory information received from the hand. To stimulate the median nerve a major nerve that runs down the arm and the only one that passes through the carpal tunnel they placed a small electrode on the wrist of human volunteers and recorded their brain responses using electroencephalography, or EEG. Then, just before stimulating the nerve, they began delivering ultrasound to the targeted brain region.

The scientists found that the ultrasound both decreased the EEG signal and weakened the brain waves responsible for encoding tactile stimulation.

The scientists then administered two classic neurological tests: the two-point discrimination test, which measures a subject's ability to distinguish whether two nearby objects touchin
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Contact: Paula Byron
pbyron@vt.edu
540-526-2027
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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