Bombarding the brain with sound waves may not seem like the most logical way to repair damage, but a new study shows that ultrasound may have therapeutic uses, reports the Economist. While ultrasound technology has long been used to take images of human interiors, such as fetuses in the womb, an Arizona lab has suggested that at lower frequencies, these sound waves could be used to manipulate nerves without harming them.
In the study, the ultrasound effectively got mouse brain tissue to release neurotransmitters, the molecules that transport information between nerves. Communication between neurons breaks down in many major medical conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Ultrasound is years away from having actual applications for treatment, but by tricking cells into releasing neurotransmitters, the study signals a promising alternative to the use of drugs or electrodes for mental illnesses.