Jamie Tyler’s research on ultrasound neuromodulation featured in New Scientist

William “Jamie” Tyler, PhD

William “Jamie” Tyler, PhD

The research of Jamie Tyler, assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, is featured in a three-page article in today’s issue of New Scientist magazine. Written by Anil Ananthaswamy, a correspondent for New Scientist, the piece details recent advancements in our understanding of how the brain works, specifically in how minute physical perturbations appear to play a large role in how neurons interact with each other. The article is, in part, based on Tyler’s recent article published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience outlining the current state of the field.

The article provides a historical context and current overview of our understanding of how physical stimuli joins electrical and chemical signals to form neural networks. It features Tyler’s own pioneering research on elucidating the biophysical mechanisms of how ultrasound is able to modulate the electrical activity of neurons in the living brain and on developing devices to do so. This work enables potentially powerful, new, non-invasive therapeutic approaches to treating disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, major depression, and epilepsy with ultrasound therapy. The article highlights research ranging from Tyler’s observations as a graduate student that bass notes from a subwoofer can modulate the electrochemical activity of neurons and their synaptic interconnections in isolated brain circuits to his recent experiments using targeted ultrasound to stop epileptic seizures in the intact brains of lab animals. The work of many researchers across the country is hopefully setting the field on a course to not only create new therapeutic applications, but potentially to, “…help build maps of the brain’s connectivity, and the functionality of different regions, with unprecedented resolution,” according to Tyler.