Sound and Brain Circuits

Neural circuits have a large impact on many disorders, including autism spectrum disorder. Understanding them and how to control them could be the key to many possible treatments. As it stands the methods we have to control neural circuits are invasive and can lead to serious brain damage. In efforts to resolve this problem Jerzy Szablowski and some of his fellow colleagues from Mikhail Shapiro’s lab at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena put an interesting spin on one of the current methods, chemogenetics. Chemogenetics uses “a virus to ferry synthetic receptors into neurons” in order to activate or inhibit the targeted neurons. Traditionally the virus is injected directly into the brain to avoid the blood brain barrier and requires surgery that comes with the risk of brain damage. In this new method Szablowski and his colleagues are instead able to inject the virus into the blood and use ultrasound to pass the blood brain barrier. They achieved this by injecting microscopic air bubbles that vibrate in response to ultrasound waves. The vibration puts enough pressure on the blood brain barrier for it to open momentarily and allow the virus to diffuse through. So far they have only applied this method in mice and rats, but it has been a success overall. In the future they hope to keep refining it and one day apply what they find to treatments for autism spectrum disorder and many others.

Full article can be found here on Spectrum News: