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Published October 14, 2020 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Ultrasound Technologies for Imaging and Modulating Neural Activity


Visualizing and perturbing neural activity on a brain-wide scale in model animals and humans is a major goal of neuroscience technology development. Established electrical and optical techniques typically break down at this scale due to inherent physical limitations. In contrast, ultrasound readily permeates the brain, and in some cases the skull, and interacts with tissue with a fundamental resolution on the order of 100 μm and 1 ms. This basic ability has motivated major efforts to harness ultrasound as a modality for large-scale brain imaging and modulation. These efforts have resulted in already-useful neuroscience tools, including high-resolution hemodynamic functional imaging, focused ultrasound neuromodulation, and local drug delivery. Furthermore, recent breakthroughs promise to connect ultrasound to neurons at the genetic level for biomolecular imaging and sonogenetic control. In this article, we review the state of the art and ongoing developments in ultrasonic neurotechnology, building from fundamental principles to current utility, open questions, and future potential.

Additional Information

© 2020 Elsevier Inc. Available online 14 October 2020. The authors thank members of the Shapiro, Andersen, Tsao, Tanter, and Caskey laboratories for helpful discussions. C.R. is supported by the Human Frontier Science Program Cross-Disciplinary Fellowship. S.Y. is supported by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Young Investigator Award. Related research in the Shapiro laboratory was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01EB018975, UG3MH120102, U01NS099724, and RF1MH117080), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (W911NF-14-1-0111 and D14AP00050), the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Sontag Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Jacobs Institute of Molecular Engineering in Medicine, the Rosen Center for Bioengineering, the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience, and the Heritage Medical Research Institute. Author Contributions: All authors wrote the manuscript and prepared figures. Declaration of Interests: The California Institute of Technology owns patents and patent applications related to some of the technologies described in this article.

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August 22, 2023
October 20, 2023