How Sound Waves Help Deliver Medicine to the Brain

Under most circumstances, the bones and cells protecting our brain are a blessing. But when it comes to delivering vital medicine to patients with disorders such as Alzheimer's, scientists have turned to creative solutions to infiltrate the brain's defenses.

The fact that your brain is protected by both the skull and a thick barrier of discerning cells is, for the most part, a good thing. One can only imagine how lousy it would be if every little toxin or substance could infiltrate your body's central processing center.


But sometimes the brain's blessing can also be a doctor's curse, especially when trying to treat disorders such as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. This is because just as your head's defenses keep pathogen out from the sensitive areas of the brain, they also set up a roadblock for vital medicines needed to fight disease.

According to this piece by Bret Stetka in Scientific American, a team of Canadian scientists has decided to get creative by harnessing the power of sound waves:

"Kullervo Hynynen, a medical physicist at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, and a team of physicians are trying out a technique that involves giving patients a drug followed by an injection of microscopic gas-filled bubbles. Next patients don a cap that directs sound waves to specific brain locations, an approach called high-intensity focused ultrasound. The waves cause the bubbles to vibrate, temporarily forcing apart the cells of the blood-brain barrier and allowing the medication to infiltrate the brain."

As Stetka writes, utilizing ultrasound to create lesions in the brain could become a prevalent alternative to risky brain surgeries. Such an advance would be incredibly helpful considering the emergence of implanted electrodes to treat disorders such as Parkinson's. Researchers are also taking a closer look at whether sound waves could be utilized to combat lesser afflictions such as migraines and OCD.

Read Stetka's entire piece over at Scientific American and let us know what you think.

Photo credit: everything possible / Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
popular
  • Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
  • Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
  • The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less