Stimulating Brain With Ultrasound Can Influence Decisions
Sumaira FH 6 months ago Thu 18th April 2019 | 11:51 AM
A noninvasive, low-intensity ultrasound method that targets nerve cells, or neurons, can alter brain function to influence decision-making
Islamabad (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News / Online - 18th April, 2019) A noninvasive, low-intensity ultrasound method that targets nerve cells, or neurons, can alter brain function to influence decision-making.Scientists have demonstrated the technique in a recent study, in which they disrupted "counterfactual thinking" in primates.Counterfactual thinking, orcounterfactual reasoning, is a type of decision-making that involves considering options that are not available now but could be in the future.'Internal representations of choices'Research on decision-making has tended to focus on brain circuits that control responses to current stimuli.
However, the authors note that "Animals often pursue behaviors for which there is currently no sensory evidence."They argue that, to be able to do this, animals have to maintain "internal representations" of choices, "even when these choices are unavailable."In other words, animals must have some capacity for counterfactual thinking, or thinking about choices that are unrelated to current experience."This is a really exciting study for two main reasons," says lead and corresponding study author Elsa Fouragnan, Ph.D., who works at the University of Plymouth school of Psychology, in the United Kingdom.Nonsurgical brain stimulationThere is a growing need for nonsurgical brain stimulation tools.
There is potential for such methods to improve treatment outcomes safely and with minimum side effects.
Low-intensity, focused ultrasound is "gaining traction" as such an approach. Previous studies have shown that it can alter activity in mammal brains noninvasively, both by stimulating and blocking signals.Some studies have also shown that ultrasound can influence activity in the outer layers and also deep inside the human brain.Experts believe that this type of brain dysfunction could be the reason why people with certain psychiatric illnesses remain trapped in unhelpful habits.Study reveals causal role of brain regionFouragnan and colleagues investigated these possibilities further by studying the macaques as they searched for and selected a treat from a range of options.The monkeys rapidly learned which of the options they preferred, but when it came to exercising choice, it was not always available.
However, they did "keep it in mind" for when it was next available.The researchers then investigated how the monkeys "maintained representations of the value of counterfactual choices - choices that could not be taken at the current moment but which could be taken in the future."Some brain stimulation techniques are already helping people withParkinson's disease and depression, but because they are nonsurgical, the methods do not have the level of accuracy achieved in this study, she adds.