• Transcranial Ultrasound as a Potential Intervention for Depression

      Allen, John J. B.; Reznik, Samantha Jill; O'Connor, Mary-Frances; Sbarra, Dave (The University of Arizona., 2016)
      Anxiety and depression are highly prevalent and often comorbid disorders that cause significant personal and economic burdens (Lépine, 2001). Because a significant number of people with depression do not respond to therapy (Fava, 2003), the development of alternative treatment methods may lessen the burden of such mental disorders. Recent research has focused on brain stimulation methods, many of which require invasive surgery or have limited precision in targeting specific areas. Transcranial ultrasound (TUS) is an alternative, noninvasive brain stimulation method that has greater spatial precision than existing methods (Tufail, 2011). TUS has been found to excite neurons in animal brains (Tufail et. al, 2010) and increase positive mood in humans (Sanguinetti et al, 2013). The present study examined TUS, for the first time, as a potential mood intervention. Twenty-four college students with mild to moderate depressive symptoms were randomly assigned to TUS stimulation or TUS sham (no power administered). Participants completed one TUS session each day for five days. Although depression scores did not change differentially for TUS/Sham, trait worry decreased in the stimulation but not the sham condition. Additionally, those in the stimulation condition rated themselves significantly less tense ten minutes after stimulation compared to those in the sham condition. TUS stimulation did not impact a brain electrical activity index associated with approach motivation, frontal asymmetry. These results have significant implications for the potential utility of TUS as an intervention for anxiety disorders or worry-related psychopathology, warranting future investigation of implicated brain electrical activity and mood changes.