Background. Noninvasive and cell-type-specific neuromodulation tools are critically needed for probing intact brain function. Sonogenetics for noninvasive activation of neurons engineered to express thermosensitive transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) by transcranial focused ultrasound (FUS) was recently developed to address this need. However, using TRPV1-mediated sonogenetics to evoke behavior by targeting the cortex is challenged by its proximity to the skull due to high skull absorption of ultrasound and increased risks of thermal-induced tissue damage. Objective. This study evaluated the feasibility and safety of TRPV1-mediated sonogenetics in targeting the motor cortex to modulate the locomotor behavior of freely moving mice. Approach. Adeno-associated viral vectors was delivered to the mouse motor cortex via intracranial injection to express TRPV1 in excitatory neurons. A wearable FUS device was installed on the mouse head after a month to control neuronal activity by activating virally expressed TRPV1 through FUS sonication at different acoustic pressures. Immunohistochemistry staining of ex vivo brain slices was performed to verify neuron activation and evaluate safety. Results. TRPV1-mediated sonogenetic stimulation at 0.7 MPa successfully evoked rotational behavior in the direction contralateral to the stimulation site, activated cortical neurons as indicated by the upregulation of c-Fos, and did not induce significant changes in inflammatory or apoptotic markers (GFAP, Iba1, and Caspase-3). Sonogenetic stimulation of TRPV1 mice at a higher acoustic pressure, 1.1 MPa, induced significant changes in motor behavior and upregulation of c-Fos compared with FUS sonication of naïve mice at 1.1 MPa. However, signs of damage at the meninges were observed at 1.1 MPa. Significance. TRPV1-mediated sonogenetics can achieve effective and safe neuromodulation at the cortex with carefully selected FUS parameters. These findings expand the application of this technique to include superficial brain targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number016055
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023


  • TRPV1
  • behavior
  • motor cortex
  • neuromodulation
  • sonogenetics
  • ultrasound


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