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Wanna Get Happy? Try Brain Ultrasound

July 19, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Neuroradiology
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Feeling depressed? Anxious? Just a bit blue?

Well, zap your brain with ultrasound and turn that frown upside down!

OK, we’re exaggerating. But only a little. And perhaps, depending on how research at the University of Arizona develops, not at all.

Stuart Hameroff, MD, director of the university’s Center for Consciousness Studies, noticed a study by Jamie Tyler, PhD, now of Virginia Tech and formerly of Arizona State, who has been exploring the effects of ultrasound on the brain for years. (See, for example, this post from the Radiology Daily archives.) Dr. Tyler found that ultrasound applied to animals’ heads had physiological and behavioral effects.

Dr. Hameroff knew that ultrasound vibrates in megahertz frequencies and that microtubules—protein structures inside brain neurons that are linked to mood and consciousness—resonate in megahertz frequencies. He wondered whether ultrasound could affect human moods. “I said to my anesthesiology colleagues, ‘We should try this on chronic pain volunteers,'” he recalled, as quoted in a university news release.

His colleagues suggested that he try it on himself first. He did, placing an ultrasound transducer against his head for about 15 seconds. He described what happened:

I put it down and said, ‘Well, that’s not going to work.’ And then about a minute later I started to feel like I’d had a martini.

Check out the news release link for a photo of Dr. Hameroff having a transducer applied to his head and looking suitably blissed-out.

A clinical trial ensued—a double-blind study of the effect of transcranial ultrasound on 31 chronic-pain patients from The University of Arizona Medical Center—South Campus in Tucson. Ultrasound improved mood for up to 40 minutes; when the machine was switched off, mood didn’t change. An article in Brain Stimulation, published online last year and on paper in the May 2013 issue, reported the study results.

Imagine the possibilities. We’re envisioning “ultrasound upper” machines in airports, coffee shops, office break rooms, storefront “pep palaces” … just drop the helmet over your head, insert your debit or credit card, and start smiling. Perhaps machines could be installed in cars to eliminate road rage. And we’d like to duct-tape them to the heads of certain radio talk-show hosts.

Sorry. In all seriousness, this discovery does seem potentially revolutionary. Pharmaceutical companies will be watching developments with interest. And apprehension.

Related CME seminar (up to 21 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Neuro and Musculoskeletal Imaging


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One Response to “Wanna Get Happy? Try Brain Ultrasound”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Ultrasound Boosts Brain’s Sensory Ability on January 13th, 2014 at 4:59 pm

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