Deep brain stimulation is a powerful therapeutic tool. It lets doctors and researchers target specific brain cells, letting them treat disorders such as Parkinson’s and even OCD. But there’s a price. To target those specific brain cells, researchers have to stick electrodes deep into the brain – a risky procedure and a risky operation.
In June, a team of international researchers reported they had figured out how to stimulate neurons deep inside the brain without the invasive surgery. The method involved placing electrodes on the scalp and utilizing something called temporal interference.
The electrodes are set at two different frequencies, which are normally too high to activate neurons. But in places where the current crosses, the interaction between the two frequencies generates a lower frequency, one to which the neurons respond. Since the low-frequency current depends on where the electrodes are places, doctors can easily arrange them on the scalp to get at any harder-to-reach neurons. This also leaves other neurons untouched, unlike in surgery.
The research was published in the journal Cell, and has so far only been tested on mice. If the technique is viable in humans, it could open the door for noninvasive ways to alleviate all manner of neurological disorders.
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