Transcranial ultrasound stimulation to human middle temporal complex improves visual motion detection and modulates electrophysiological responses.
Butler CR., Rhodes E., Blackmore J., Cheng X., Peach RL., Veldsman M., Sheerin F., Cleveland RO.
BACKGROUND: Transcranial ultrasound stimulation (TUS) holds promise as a novel technology for non-invasive neuromodulation, with greater spatial precision than other available methods and the ability to target deep brain structures. However, its safety and efficacy for behavioural and electrophysiological modulation remains controversial and it is not yet clear whether it can be used to manipulate the neural mechanisms supporting higher cognitive function in humans. Moreover, concerns have been raised about a potential TUS-induced auditory confound. OBJECTIVES: We aimed to investigate whether TUS can be used to modulate higher-order visual function in humans in an anatomically-specific way whilst controlling for auditory confounds. METHODS: We used participant-specific skull maps, functional localisation of brain targets, acoustic modelling and neuronavigation to guide TUS delivery to human visual motion processing cortex (hMT+) whilst participants performed a visual motion detection task. We compared the effects of hMT + stimulation with sham and control site stimulation and examined EEG data for modulation of task-specific event-related potentials. An auditory mask was applied which prevented participants from distinguishing between stimulation and sham trials. RESULTS: Compared with sham and control site stimulation, TUS to hMT + improved accuracy and reduced response times of visual motion detection. TUS also led to modulation of the task-specific event-related EEG potential. The amplitude of this modulation correlated with the performance benefit induced by TUS. No pathological changes were observed comparing structural MRI obtained before and after stimulation. CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrate for the first time the precision, efficacy and safety of TUS for stimulation of higher-order cortex and cognitive function in humans whilst controlling for auditory confounds.