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Ultrasound Alters the Functioning of Monkey’s Brain

Mar, 2022

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Ultrasound can vary the activities of the brain that are linked with psychiatric disorders, found in a study.

An interesting new study investigates how ultrasound can be used to treat mental disorders, by changing the way monkeys' brains associate rewards with specific events or choices. Ultrasound has a long history as a reliable imaging technology that can reveal what is going on in the human body, but recently we have seen how it can be changed accordingly to have a direct effect on body behavior. The latest development by researchers at the University of Plymouth focuses on general characteristics of the number of mental disorders known to be “credit assignment”. The brain incorrectly associates certain results with certain events, such as getting good grades on exams and giving credit to socks worn during the day without spending late at night studying.

It is a kind of brain function that a drug addict may continue to use notwithstanding its widespread harmful effects, or may contribute to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). By analyzing monkey brains with magnetic resonance imaging, the authors were able to reilluminate the credit assignment problem. This disclosed the activity in the unorthodox prior brain area during the credit assignment task. Then by using low-intensity transcranial ultrasound stimulation the scientists targeted the specific area, which made monkeys more inquisitive in their judgment.

That resulted in disruption of the credit assignment signaling and the decision-making of monkeys was no longer influenced by the value of the various choices and the perceived consequences. Scientists also targeted the adjacent portion of the prior cortex and found that it had no effect on this process, suggesting that brain modulation could be differentiated for areas that mediate specific cognitive functions. There are still early days for this approach, but by continuing to reveal ways that ultrasound can be used to target specific parts of the brain for different results, scientists hope that one day new treatments for psychiatric conditions will be provided.

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