Our brain is complex. It has various parts with their own function. On top of that, the brain cells (we have app. 100 billion of them) differ from one to the other. That is why it is so hard to diagnose correctly and treat a brain disease. On the other hand, the science doesn’t give up in finding better ways of understanding the brain. One of the recent studies seems to be a step closer in giving us new ways of diagnosing and treating brain diseases (such as stroke, tumors and Parkinson’s disease) by using vibrations and ultrasound waves through the skull.
The study has several research teams, who from their own perspective explore how vibrations and waves across a range of frequencies could either extract information from the brain or focus energy on the brain to better diagnose and treat brain diseases. The investigated vibrations and waves have a broad range of frequencies, starting from spanning low frequency vibrations (audio frequency range) and moderate frequency guided waves (100 kHz to 1 MHz) to high frequencies.
Using ultrasound waves, the researchers are tackling the challenge on multiple levels. One of the research groups aims at understanding how the acoustic waves go through microstructure of the skull. This knowlegde, for example, may help image blood flow in the brain following a stroke.
The second research team found a new fast way to focus ultrasound through the skull and into the brain. The researchers believe that their method lets the practicioners adapt and refocus the ultrasound to the specific part of the brain.
The third research team explores the vibrations and guided waves in difficult-to-reach brain areas, such as periphery brain areas. The researchers of this team have background in mechanical engineering. They try to apply the already existing knowledge of using guided waves in aerospace and civil structures for damage detection, to the brain. They use advanced ultrasound, cranial leaky Lamb waves, to transmit wave energy to brain periphery without heating it up, unlikely the conventional ultrasound methods. These cranial guided waves could complement focused ultrasound applications to monitor changes in the cranial bone marrow from health disorders, or to efficiently transmit acoustic signals through the skull barrier, which could help access metastases and treat neurological conditions in currently inaccessible regions of the brain.
All researchers involved in the study, hope that their developed techniques could better detect traumas and skull-related defects, map the brain function, and enable neurostimulation. Researchers also see the potential for uncovering ultrasound-based blood-brain barrier openings for drug delivery for managing and treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s. When this happens, we will be able to use the ultrasound more broadly, more precisely, more safely and less expensive, comparing to MRI technology.
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