Virgina Tech Study Demonstrates Focused Brain Ultrasound Can Reduce Both Pain Perception and Response to Pain What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Before these papers, it was not possible to non-surgically investigate how different regions of the insula or the dorsal anterior cingulate contribute to the pain experience and/or how nociceptive or pain information is relayed from one area to the other. Previous invasive depth-electrode recordings had demonstrated nociceptive information was relayed in space and time from the posterior insula to the anterior insula. Other studies showed this information is also relayed to the dorsal anterior cingulate. Our results recapitulated this non-invasively. That these types of questions and discoveries can be answered and made now non-invasively with LIFU is an important finding.

In summary, these studies point to a non-invasive and effective way to modulate critical regions of the brain involved in pain processing while eliminating many of the risks associated with surgeries. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Both studies, one published in PAIN and the other in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved healthy participants. We are now examining the utility of LIFU to different brain areas as a potential pain therapeutic. We do not yet know what dosing is appropriate or what specific parameters may lead to long-lasting and clinically meaningful results. Thus, we are beginning to test the technology for pain relief in chronic pain populations. We are also investigating the utility of LIFU for other clinical indications such as anxiety and addiction.

Disclosures: These studies were funded in part from grants awarded to Wynn Legon from the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, the Seale Innovation Fund, and NIH R21.


  1. Low-intensity focused ultrasound to the human dorsal anterior cingulate attenuates acute pain perception and autonomic responses.
    Andrew Strohman, Brighton Payne, Alexander In, Katelyn Stebbins, Wynn Legon
    Journal of Neuroscience 5 January 2024, e1011232023; 
    DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1011-23.2023
  2. Legon, Wynna,b,c,d,*; Strohman, Andrewe,f; In, Alexandere; Payne, Brightona,d. Noninvasive neuromodulation of subregions of the human insula differentially affect pain processing and heart-rate variability: a within-subjects pseudo-randomized trial. PAIN ():10.1097/j.pain.0000000000003171, February 1, 2024. | DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000003171


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Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by