Window in the skull: scientists examined the human brain with ultrasound while playing a video game

by alex

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Окошко в черепе: ученые исследовали мозг человека ультразвуком во время видеоигры

Окошко в черепе: ученые исследовали мозг человека ультразвуком во время видеоигры

For the first time, scientists have used ultrasonic waves to look into the brain of a living person. The man's brain activity was recorded while he performed tasks outside of a medical facility, including playing a video game.

To achieve this, the researchers implanted a material in the man's skull that allows ultrasound waves to pass into the brain. After passing through this “acoustically transparent” window, the waves reflected from the boundaries between tissues and returned to the ultrasound probe connected to the scanner. The findings allowed scientists to create a picture of what is happening in the brain, similar to how ultrasound scans visualize a fetus in the womb.

A team from Caltech and the University of Southern California looked at changes in blood volume in the brain over time, zooming in on areas of the posterior parietal cortex and motor cortex, which are involved in motor coordination. Measuring changes in blood volume is one way to indirectly monitor brain cell activity. When neurons are active, they require more oxygen and nutrients, which are delivered by blood vessels.

The new study builds on previous studies of primates. Working with humans, scientists were able to use ultrasound imaging to accurately record neural activity during video games and guitar playing. The team published the study in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Functional ultrasound imaging (ultrasound that monitors changes in blood volume in the brain) is considered a promising alternative to conventional brain imaging techniques such as MRI. This method is more sensitive to changes in brain activity, and the resulting images have higher resolution. The method also does not require patients to lie still for long periods of time.

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In this way, it is possible to monitor patients' brain activity under real-life conditions. This is now also possible using electroencephalography, but EEG monitors electrical activity through the scalp and skull, so it is not very accurate.

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The human skull has also always been a barrier to ultrasonic waves. In the study, the scientists overcame this obstacle by removing part of the skull. This was done for therapeutic purposes to relieve pressure in the patient's brain after a severe traumatic brain injury. Typically, patients in such cases receive a titanium mesh or a custom-made implant. In this case, the team created an acoustically transparent implant. In the future, the new technique may not be limited to patients with TBI, the study authors say.

Окошко в черепе: ученые исследовали мозг человека ультразвуком во время видеоигры

Окошко в черепе: ученые исследовали мозг человека ультразвуком во время видеоигры

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