Low-intensity focused ultrasound (FUS) has significant potential as a non-invasive brain stimulation modality and novel technique for functional brain mapping, particularly with its advantage of greater spatial selectivity and depth penetration compared to existing noninvasive brain stimulation techniques. As previous studies, primarily carried out in small animals, have demonstrated that sonication parameters affect the stimulation efficiency, further investigation in large animals is necessary to translate this technique into clinical practice. In the present study, we examined the effects of sonication parameters on the transient modification of excitability of cortical and thalamic areas in an ovine model. Guided by anatomical and functional neuroimaging data specific to each animal, 250 kHz FUS was transcranially applied to the primary sensorimotor area associated with the right hind limb and its thalamic projection in sheep (n = 10) across multiple sessions using various combinations of sonication parameters. The degree of effect from FUS was assessed through electrophysiological responses, through analysis of electromyogram and electroencephalographic somatosensory evoked potentials for evaluation of excitatory and suppressive effects, respectively. We found that the modulatory effects were transient and reversible, with specific sonication parameters outperforming others in modulating regional brain activity. Magnetic resonance imaging and histological analysis conducted at different time points after the final sonication session, as well as behavioral observations, showed that repeated exposure to FUS did not damage the underlying brain tissue. Our results suggest that FUS-mediated, non-invasive, region-specific bimodal neuromodulation can be safely achieved in an ovine model, indicating its potential for translation into human studies.
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© 2019 Yoon et al.
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