A retrospective qualitative report of symptoms and safety from transcranial focused ultrasound for neuromodulation in humans

Wynn Legon, Sarah Adams, Priya Bansal, Parantap D. Patel, Landon Hobbs, Leo Ai, Jerel K. Mueller, Gregg Meekins, Bernadette T. Gillick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Low intensity transcranial focused ultrasound (LIFU) is a promising method of non-invasive neuromodulation that uses mechanical energy to affect neuronal excitability. LIFU confers high spatial resolution and adjustable focal lengths for precise neuromodulation of discrete regions in the human brain. Before the full potential of low intensity ultrasound for research and clinical application can be investigated, data on the safety of this technique is indicated. Here, we provide an evaluation of the safety of LIFU for human neuromodulation through participant report and neurological assessment with a comparison of symptomology to other forms of non-invasive brain stimulation. Participants (N = 120) that were enrolled in one of seven human ultrasound neuromodulation studies in one laboratory at the University of Minnesota (2015–2017) were queried to complete a follow-up Participant Report of Symptoms questionnaire assessing their self-reported experience and tolerance to participation in LIFU research (Isppa 11.56–17.12 W/cm2) and the perceived relation of symptoms to LIFU. A total of 64/120 participant (53%) responded to follow-up requests to complete the Participant Report of Symptoms questionnaire. None of the participants experienced serious adverse effects. From the post-hoc assessment of safety using the questionnaire, 7/64 reported mild to moderate symptoms, that were perceived as ‘possibly’ or ‘probably’ related to participation in LIFU experiments. These reports included neck pain, problems with attention, muscle twitches and anxiety. The most common unrelated symptoms included sleepiness and neck pain. There were initial transient reports of mild neck pain, scalp tingling and headache that were extinguished upon follow-up. No new symptoms were reported upon follow up out to 1 month. The profile and incidence of symptoms looks to be similar to other forms of non-invasive brain stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5573
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 27 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Adult
  • Brain/physiopathology
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Neurons/physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultrasonic Therapy/adverse effects
  • Ultrasonography/adverse effects
  • Young Adult

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'A retrospective qualitative report of symptoms and safety from transcranial focused ultrasound for neuromodulation in humans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this