Whales, bats and even praying mantises use ultrasound as a sensory guidance system — and now a new study has found that ultrasound can modulate brain activity to heighten sensory perception in humans.
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have demonstrated that ultrasound directed to a specific region of the brain can boost performance in sensory discrimination. The study, published online in Nature Neuroscience, provides the first demonstration that low-intensity, transcranial-focused ultrasound can modulate human brain activity to enhance perception.
Human beings don’t come with power sockets, but a growing numbers of us have medical implants that run off electricity. To keep our bionic body parts from powering down, a group of Arizona researchers is developing a safe, noninvasive and efficient means of wireless power transmission through body tissue. The team presents their findings at the 166th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, held Dec. 2–6.
A new nanotechnology-based technique for regulating blood sugar in diabetics may give patients the ability to release insulin painlessly using a small ultrasound device, allowing them to go days between injections – rather than using needles to give themselves multiple insulin injections a day. The technique was developed by researchers at North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“This is hopefully a big step toward giving diabetics a more painless method of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels,” says Zhen Gu, senior author of a paper on the research and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill.
Acoustic Diode May Improve Ultrasound Images, Diagnosis, Therapy
Most people know about ultrasound through its role in prenatal imaging: those grainy, grey outlines of junior constructed from reflected sound waves. A new technology called an acoustic diode, envisioned by researchers at Nanjing Univ., may dramatically improve future ultrasound images by changing the way sound waves are transmitted.
In the journal Applied Physics Letters, which is produced by American Institute of Physics Publishing, the scientists describe the theoretical framework for an acoustic diode — a device that achieves a one-way transmission of sound waves much the same as an electrical diode controls the one-way transmission of electrical impulses.
Technique Combo Creates Quicker, Gentler Cancer Biopsies
Taking tissue samples can often be a traumatic experience for breast cancer patients. There are also significant costs associated with the procedure when magnetic resonance imaging is used. Fraunhofer scientists working on the MARIUS project are developing a more cost-effective biopsy method that is easier on patients. They will showcase new alternative technologies and techniques combining MR and ultrasound imaging at MEDICA 2013 in Düsseldorf from November 20-23.
How can you tell if a breast tumor is malignant? This isn’t a question that ultrasound and X-rays, or even magnetic resonance scans, can answer alone. Doctors must often extract tissue samples from an affected area with a fine needle for detailed examination. This sort of biopsy is often undertaken with the help of ultrasound, with doctors observing a screen for needle guidance. Unfortunately, around 30 percent of all tumors are invisible to ultrasound. In some cases, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to ensure correct needle insertion. This process involves two steps: the imaging itself, which takes place inside the MRI scanner, and the insertion of the biopsy needle, for which the patient must be removed from the machine to insert the needle accurately. This process is often repeated several times before the sample is finally taken. This exhausts patients and is also costly, because the procedure occupies the MRI scanner for a significant period.
A new study shows that the use of ultrasound testing rather than x-rays or CT scans in the ICU reduces patient radiation exposure and lowers costs of care. The study was presented at CHEST 2013, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).
“We found that the use of ultrasound to diagnose patients greatly reduced radiation exposure for patients without negatively affecting their health,” says Margarita Oks, Long Island Jewish Hospital, North Shore-LIJ Health System. “It was also cost-effective.”
After a 2011 outbreak of P. aeruginosa, investigators at Beaumont Health System determined contaminated ultrasound gel was the source of bacteria causing the healthcare-associated infection. The findings emphasize the need for increased scrutiny of contaminated medical products. This study is published in the August issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.
"Ultrasound is a critical healthcare tool used every day in both diagnostic and interventional procedures," says Paul Chittick, lead author of the study. "Although contaminated gel has been the cause of several documented outbreaks of infection, its potential role as a vehicle for spreading infections to patients is frequently overlooked."
A system that uses ultrasound technology to look inside car engines could lead to more efficient engines – and huge fuel savings for motorists.
Ultrasound scans have long been a fundamental tool in healthcare for looking inside the human body, but they have never before been put to use in testing the health of a modern combustion engine. In the Univ. of Sheffield’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Rob Dwyer-Joyce, professor of lubrication engineering, has devised a method of using ultrasound to measure how efficiently an engine’s pistons are moving up and down inside their cylinders.
The largest analysis to date comparing ultrasound and mammography to evaluate women ages 30 to 39 with symptoms of possible breast cancer concludes that ultrasound is a superior diagnostic tool and that U.S. clinical practice guidelines, which currently recommend mammography as the first evaluation in these women, should be reconsidered.
Researchers at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Univ. of Washington found that ultrasound has a far higher sensitivity for cancer detection than mammography. In the 1,208 cases examined, sensitivity for ultrasound was 95.7 percent compared to 60.9 percent for mammography. Ultrasound exams found 22 cancers versus 14 by mammography. For this study, researchers identified all women 30 to 39 years old who presented for diagnostic breast imaging evaluation at SCCA between January 2002 and August 2006. Researchers identified the 1,208 cases in 954 patients.
Ultrasound images, known as sonograms, have become a familiar part of pregnancy, allowing expectant parents a view of their unborn child. But new research at MIT could improve the ability of untrained workers to perform basic ultrasound tests, while allowing trained workers to much more accurately track the development of medical conditions, such as the growth of a tumor or the buildup of plaque in arteries.
The improvements to this widely used technology could provide detailed information far beyond what is possible with existing systems, the researchers say. The work, led by Brian Anthony, co-director of MIT’s Medical Electronic Device Realization Center (MEDRC) and director of the Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Program, was recently presented at the International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging in Barcelona, Spain.
Ship propellers are as large as a single-family home – and manufacturing them is quite a challenge. During the casting process, pores and miniscule cracks can form that in the worst case may cause a blade to break. Now these massive components can be inspected for defects in a non-invasive manner, using a new kind of ultrasound process.
They can weigh up to 150 tons, and it’s not uncommon for them to measure nine meters or more in diameter: the ship propellers on huge tankers, container ships and cruise liners are invisible giants. Damage to these massive propellers could render a ship un-maneuverable – with unpredictable consequences for people and the environment. Many defects do not come from external influences, but instead originate in the production or repair process. For example, when the molded parts are being cast, any turbulence could lead to sand inclusions and pores. Left undetected, critical imperfections could lead to breakage of a blade.
Sonar and ultrasound, which use sound as a navigational device and to paint accurate pictures of an environment, are the basis of countless technologies, including medical ultrasound machines and submarine navigation systems. But when it comes to more accurate sonar and ultrasound, animals’ “biosonar” capabilities still have the human race beat.
But not for long. In a new project that studies bats, dolphins and mole rats, Prof. Nathan Intrator of Tel Aviv Univ.’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science, in collaboration with Brown Univ.’s Prof. Jim Simmons, is working to identify what gives biosonar the edge over human-made technologies. Using a unique method for measuring how the animals interpret the returning signals, Intrator has determined that the key to these animals’ success is superior, real-time data processing. “Animal ‘echolocations’ are done in fractions of milliseconds, at a resolution so high that a dolphin can see a tennis ball from approximately 260 feet away,” he says, noting that the animals are able to process several pieces of information simultaneously.