Congratulations to recent alumnus Davide Folloni, who was selected as a finalist for the highly-prestigious Science & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation. His prize paper, Ultrasound neuromodulation of the deep brain: Non-invasive and reversible neuromodulation of deep brain areas and behavior, is based on research he completed for his DPhil dissertation in EP. As a finalist, his Prize Essay has today been published in Science.
Administered by Science and Science Translational Medicine, The Science & PINS Prize is awarded for innovative research that modulates neural activity through physical (electrical, magnetic, optical) stimulation of targeted sites in the nervous system with implications for translational medicine.
Davide completed his DPhil in our department in 2020 and was supervised by Matthew Rushworth, Rogier Mars, Jerome Sallet and Lennart Verhagen. He is pursuing postdoctoral research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Davide said, "These series of experiments consistently showed very exciting results for the future of deep brain neuromodulation in primates and hopefully soon in humans. We think that the applications of these techniques may range from a better understanding of how our brain works to the development of neurorehabilitative approaches and surgery planning in psychiatry and neurology. A special thanks goes to my supervisors, especially Matthew Rushworth and Jerome Sallet, who led the ultrasound projects during my DPhil."
Matthew Rushworth said, "Davide was a fantastic doctoral student. There were a number of strands to his research but in one part of his doctorate Davide developed what was, at the time, a very new technique – transcranial ultrasound stimulation (TUS) to explore the roles of specific brain areas in fundamental cognitive processes. Even though Davide had a few other irons in the fire when he started his doctorate, at the time it was a brave thing to take on such a new project. It was, however, very hard to perturb David and he seemed to relish the challenge. With Jerome Sallet he devised new procedures for collecting TUS data. With Lennart Verhagen and Elsa Fouragnan, an equal amount of ingenuity was invested in devising new strategies for analysing the impact TUS had on brain activity and on behaviour. Many other colleagues then in Oxford, Alessandro Bongioanni, Nima Khalighinejad, Miriam Klein-Flugge, Rogier Mars, and Marco Wittmann also made the new line of research a reality. It is not every day that someone who has not long finished their doctorate is invited to write an essay in Science and that is one of the things that makes the Science & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation prize so unusual but Davide is a very worthy winner. I am looking forward to see what he does next."
Understanding the brain-behavior relationship is crucial for the development of novel rehabilitative technologies. Currently, we still lack a tool able to modulate in a non-invasive and reversible fashion deep brain areas that are affected in conditions such as depression, anxiety, addiction and dementia. In a series of experiments, we tested if an innovative low-intensity ultrasound technique could overcome this limitation. We showed that this technique can exert regionally specific modulation of activity both in subcortical and deep cortical areas of the primate brain, reaching regions that were previously inaccessible without a surgical procedure. Intriguingly, ultrasound-induced modulation of neural activity also consistently translated into behavioral changes. Ultrasound may pave the way towards a non-invasive and reversible neuromodulation of the deep brain in patients with psychiatric and neurological disorders.