Sonogenetics: Neuron stimulation via ultrasound

Salk‘s Sreekanth Chalasani‘s “sonogenetics” technique uses ultrasound to stimulate individual brain cells.  A nature paper describes the technology as tested on worms.  The goal is noninvasive stimulation of specific cell types or individual neurons in humans, with out using implanted electrodes or fiber-optic cables.

Current optogenetics therapies  rely on inserting light-sensitive channel proteins into neurons. When hit by the correct color of light, usually sent by a fiber-optic cable, the channels open, allowing ions to flood in.

The new technique relies on touch-sensitive  “channel” proteins, which can be added to specific brain cells through genetic engineering. The channels open when hit by an ultrasonic pulse, allowing ions to flood into a neuron and cause it to turn on.

Click to view Salk Institute video.