Intramembrane Cavitation as a Predictive Bio-Piezoelectric Mechanism for Ultrasonic Brain Stimulation
Low-intensity ultrasonic waves can remotely and nondestructively excite central nervous system (CNS) neurons. While diverse applications for this effect are already emerging, the biophysical transduction mechanism underlying this excitation remains unclear. Recently, we suggested that ultrasound-induced intramembrane cavitation within the bilayer membrane could underlie the biomechanics of a range of observed acoustic bioeffects. In this paper, we show that, in CNS neurons, ultrasound-induced cavitation of these nanometric bilayer sonophores can induce a complex mechanoelectrical interplay leading to excitation, primarily through the effect of currents induced by membrane capacitance changes. Our model explains the basic features of CNS acoustostimulation and predicts how the experimentally observed efficacy of mouse motor cortical ultrasonic stimulation depends on stimulation parameters. These results support the hypothesis that neuronal intramembrane piezoelectricity underlies ultrasound-induced neurostimulation, and suggest that other interactions between the nervous system and pressure waves or perturbations could be explained by this new mode of biological piezoelectric transduction.