January 22, 2021

Mechanistic modeling suggests that low-intensity focused ultrasound can selectively recruit myelinated or unmyelinated nerve fibers

Low-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Stimulation (LIFUS) holds promise for the remote modulation of neuronal activity, but an incomplete mechanistic characterization hinders its clinical maturation. Here, we developed a computational framework to model intramembrane cavitation in multi-compartmental, morphologically-realistic neuronal representations, and used it to investigate ultrasound neuromodulation of peripheral nerves by spatially-varying pressure fields. Our findings show that LIFUS offers distinct parametric sub-spaces to selectively recruit myelinated or unmyelinated axons and modulate their spiking activity over physiologically relevant regimes and within safe exposure limits. This singular feature, explained by fiber-specific differences in membrane electromechanical coupling, consistently explains recent empirical findings and suggests that LIFUS can preferentially target nociceptive and sensory fibers to enable peripheral therapeutic applications not addressable by electric stimulation. These results open up new opportunities for the development of more selective and effective peripheral neuroprostheses. Our framework can be readily applied to other neural targets to establish application-specific LIFUS protocols.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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