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Wireless magnetothermal deep brain stimulation

Science  27 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6229, pp. 1477-1480
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261821

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Exciting nerve cells deep inside the brain

Current techniques to stimulate regions inside the brain need a permanently implanted wire or an optical fiber. Working in mice, Chen et al. developed a method to overcome this problem (see the Perspective by Temel and Jahanshahi). They introduced heat-sensitive capsaicin receptors into nerve cells and then injected magnetic nanoparticles into specific brain regions. The nanoparticles could be heated by external alternating magnetic fields, which activated the ion channel–expressing neurons. Thus, cellular signaling deep inside the brain can be controlled remotely without permanent implants.

Science, this issue p. 1477; see also p. 1418

Abstract

Wireless deep brain stimulation of well-defined neuronal populations could facilitate the study of intact brain circuits and the treatment of neurological disorders. Here, we demonstrate minimally invasive and remote neural excitation through the activation of the heat-sensitive capsaicin receptor TRPV1 by magnetic nanoparticles. When exposed to alternating magnetic fields, the nanoparticles dissipate heat generated by hysteresis, triggering widespread and reversible firing of TRPV1+ neurons. Wireless magnetothermal stimulation in the ventral tegmental area of mice evoked excitation in subpopulations of neurons in the targeted brain region and in structures receiving excitatory projections. The nanoparticles persisted in the brain for over a month, allowing for chronic stimulation without the need for implants and connectors.

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