NYMC Faculty Publications

Low-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Alters the Latency and Spatial Patterns of Sensory-Evoked Cortical Responses in Vivo

Journal Title

Journal of Neural Engineering

First Page


Document Type


Publication Date

June 2018




OBJECTIVE: The use of transcranial, low intensity focused ultrasound (FUS) is an emerging neuromodulation technology that shows promise for both therapeutic and research applications. Among many, one of the most exciting applications is the use of FUS to rehabilitate or augment human sensory capabilities. While there is compelling empirical evidence demonstrating this capability, basic questions regarding the spatiotemporal extent of the modulatory effects remain. Our objective was to assess the basic, yet often overlooked hypothesis that FUS in fact alters sensory-evoked neural activity within the region of the cerebral cortex at the beam's focus. APPROACH: To address this knowledge gap, we developed an approach to optically interrogate patterns of neural activity in the cortex directly at the acoustic focus, in vivo. Implementing simultaneous wide-field optical imaging and FUS stimulation in mice, our experiments probed somatosensory-evoked electrical activity through the use of voltage sensitive dyes (VSDs) and, in transgenic mice expressing GCaMP6f, monitored associated Ca(2+) responses. MAIN RESULTS: Our results demonstrate that low-intensity FUS alters both the kinetics and spatial patterns of neural activity in primary somatosensory cortex at the acoustic focus. When preceded by 1 s of pulsed ultrasound at intensities below 1 W cm(-2) (I sppa), the onset of sensory-evoked cortical responses occurred 3.0 +/- 0.7 ms earlier and altered the surface spatial morphology of Ca(2+) responses. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings support the heretofore unconfirmed assumption that FUS-induced sensory modulation reflects, at least in part, altered reactivity in primary sensory cortex at the site of sonication. The findings are significant given the interest in using FUS to target and alter spatial aspects of sensory receptive fields on the cerebral cortex.