Manipulating neuronal activity with low frequency transcranial ultrasound
Moore, Michele Elizabeth
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Stimulation of the rodent cerebral cortex is used to investigate the underlying biological basis for the restorative effects of slow wave sleep. Neuronal activation by optogenetic and ultrasound stimulation elicits changes in action potentials across the cerebral cortex that are recorded as electroencephalograms. Optogenetic stimulation requires an invasive implantation procedure limiting its application in human studies. We sought to determine whether ultrasound stimulation could be as effective as optogenetic techniques currently used, in an effort to further understand the physiological and metabolic requirements of sleep. We successfully recorded electroencephalograms in response to transcranial ultrasound stimulation of the barrel cortex at 1 and 7 Hz frequencies, comparing them to those recorded in response to optogenetic stimuli applied at the same frequencies. Our results showed application of a 473 nm blue LED positioned 6 cm above the skull and ultrasound stimulation at an output voltage of 1000 mVpp produced electroencephalograms with physiological responses of similar amplitude. We concluded that there exists an intensity-proportionate response in the optogenetic stimulation, but not with ultrasound stimulation at the frequencies we surveyed.Activation of neuronal cells in response to optogenetic stimulation in a Thy1-ChR2 transgenic mouse line is specifically targeted to pyramidal cells in the cerebral cortex. ChR2 responses to optogenetic stimulation are mediated by a focal activation of neuronal ion channels. We measured electrophysiological responses to ultrasound stimulation, comparing them to those recorded from optogenetic stimuli. Our results show striking similarities between ultrasound-induced responses and optogenetically-induced responses, which may indicate that transcranial ultrasound stimulation is also mediated by ion channel dependent processes in cerebral cortical neurons.The biophysical substrates for electrical excitability of neurons impose temporal constraints on their response to stimulation. If ultrasound-mediated responses are, in fact, ion channel mediated responses, ultrasound-induced responses should exhibit time-dependence characteristics similar to those of optogenetically-triggered responses. Minimal stimulus duration thresholds and the temporal limits of paired pulse facilitation for ultrasound stimulation were identical to those of optogenetic stimulation. Collectively, these experiments demonstrate an electrophysiological basis for low-frequency transcranial ultrasound stimulation of cerebral cortical neuronal activity.