New research published today in Science Advances suggests pulses of ultrasonic waves can be used to partially control decision-making in rhesus macaque monkeys. Specifically, the ultrasound treatments were shown to influence their decision to look either left or right at a target presented on a screen, despite prior training to prefer one target over the other.
The new study, co-authored by neuroscientist Jan Kubanek from the University of Utah, highlights the potential use of this non-invasive technique for treating certain disorders in humans, like addictions, without the need for surgery or medication. The procedure is also completely painless.
Scientists had previously shown that ultrasound can stimulate neurons in the brains of mice, including tightly packed neurons deep in the brain. By modulating neuronal activity in mice, researchers could trigger various muscle movements across their bodies. That said, other research has been less conclusive about this and whether high-frequency sound waves can trigger neuromodulatory effects in larger animals.
The new research suggests they can, at least in a pair of macaque monkeys.