Transcranial focused ultrasound modulates the activity of primary somatosensory cortex in humans

Wynn Legon, Tomokazu Sato, Alexander Opitz, Jerel K Mueller, Aaron Barbour, Amanda Williams, William J. Tyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

567 Scopus citations


Improved methods of noninvasively modulating human brain function are needed. Here we probed the influence of transcranial focused ultrasound (tFUS) targeted to the human primary somatosensory cortex (S1) on sensory-evoked brain activity and sensory discrimination abilities. The lateral and axial spatial resolution of the tFUS beam implemented were 4.9 mm and 18 mm, respectively. Electroencephalographic recordings showed that tFUS significantly attenuated the amplitudes of somatosensory evoked potentials elicited by median nerve stimulation. We also found that tFUS significantly modulated the spectral content of sensory-evoked brain oscillations. The changes produced by tFUS on sensory-evoked brain activity were abolished when the acoustic beam was focused 1 cm anterior or posterior to S1. Behavioral investigations showed that tFUS targeted to S1 enhanced performance on sensory discrimination tasks without affecting task attention or response bias. We conclude that tFUS can be used to focally modulate human cortical function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-329
Number of pages8
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding and equipment for this study was provided by a Technological Innovation Award from the McKnight Endowment for Neuroscience, Neurotrek, Inc. and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.


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