Therapeutic ultrasound is only beginning to be applied to neurologic conditions, but the potential of this modality for a wide spectrum of brain applications is high. Engineering advances now allow sound waves to be targeted through the skull to a brain region selected with real time magnetic resonance imaging and thermography, using a commercial array of focused emitters. High intensities of sonic energy can create a coagulation lesion similar to that of older radiofrequency stereotactic methods, but without opening the skull. This has led to the recent Food and Drug Administration approval of focused ultrasound (FUS) thalamotomy for unilateral treatment of essential tremor. Clinical studies of stereotactic FUS for aspects of Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, and refractory psychiatric indications are underway, with promising results. Moderate-intensity FUS has the potential to safely open the blood–brain barrier for localized delivery of therapeutics, while low levels of sonic energy can be used as a form of neuromodulation.
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