Recently, there has been a surge in interest and efforts towards modulating peripheral nerves (e.g., vagus nerve and trigeminal nerve) and end-organs to treat various health conditions including tinnitus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and several other diseases. New neurostimulation technologies to access these targets span both invasive and noninvasive devices. Invasive approaches enable more localized stimulation of targets but require surgery and long-lasting miniaturized devices for implantation. Noninvasive approaches do not require surgery and can potentially be distributed to a larger patient population with lower costs but have not yet achieved focused activation of targeted structures. A new modality using ultrasound may enable both noninvasive and targeted stimulation for the treatment of various health disorders.
I will present our experimental findings demonstrating that ultrasound stimulation can enhance or suppress ongoing nerve activity depending on the selected parameters. These neuromodulatory effects may involve both thermal and mechanical mechanisms. Encouragingly, specific parameters of ultrasound stimulation of the spleen also significantly improve inflammatory arthritis in mice. Greater therapy was possible with certain intensities and durations. Combined with published literature, our therapeutic effects are likely mediated via the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway through the spleen. These recent findings open up new opportunities for using ultrasound stimulation as a noninvasive approach not only for studying the physiology of the body but also for treating various health disorders involving dysfunction in peripheral nerve activity and/or end-organs.