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September 13, 2022
by Patricia Tomasi

Could High-Frequency Ultrasound Help Treat Depression?

September 13, 2022 08:00 by Patricia Tomasi  [About the Author]

A new study published in the NeuroReport for Rapid Communication of Neuroscience Research looked at high-frequency ultrasound exposure and whether it could improve depressive-like behavior in an olfactory bulbectomized rat model of depression.

“It is well known that whole-body exposure to high frequency ultrasound increases brain activity in humans,” study author Akiyoshi Saitoh. “However, little is known about its impact and associated mechanisms on emotional states like depression. In the present study, we demonstrated the anti-depressant effects of ultrasound exposure in a rodent model of depression.”

Major depressive disorder is the second leading cause of disability worldwide and is one of the most common mental disorders afflicted adults in the United States. It can be debilitating for some and impede a person’s ability to carry out normal daily activities. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that a person can be diagnosed with major depressive disorder if they experience symptoms such as depression mood or loss of interest in daily activities, problems with sleep, self-worth, energy and eating for a period of at least two weeks.

Over 21 million adults in the United States suffered from a major depressive episode in 2020 and 66 per cent received treatment. That’s over eight per cent of all adults in the United States. Women are more likely to suffer from a major depressive episode than men. The prevalence of women suffering from a major depressive episode is over 10 per cent compared with men at just over six per cent. The age where most adults encountered depression were between the ages of 18 and 25. Over four million teens or 17 per cent of teens in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in 2020 and 41 per cent received treatment. The prevalence was higher for teens in the U.S. reporting two or more races.

The effects of ultrasound exposure on consciousness and cognition have been extensively explored. However, little is known about its impact on emotional states such as depression.

“We used olfactory bulbectomized rats as an animal model of depression and investigated their emotional state following ultrasound exposure,” Saitoh told us. “Following exposure to high-frequency (~50 kHz) ultrasound vocalizations (USVs) associated with the pleasant emotions of rats, the hyperemotionality scores of olfactory bulbectomized rats were significantly reduced.”

Additionally, anxiety-like behaviors was significantly reversed in USV-exposed olfactory bulbectomized rats, as were their plasma corticosterone levels. Furthermore, artificial ultrasound (50 kHz) at a similar frequency to that of USV also significantly decreased the hyperemotionality score of olfactory bulbectomized rats.

In 2019, the American Psychological Association (APA) revised its guidelines on the treatment of depression. For adults, the APA recommends psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, psychodynamic therapies and supportive therapy. They also recommend second-generation antidepressants. Second generation antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). The recommendation is for either psychotherapy or medication or a combination of the two, in which case, the APA most strongly recommends combining cognitive behavioral therapy, or interpersonal therapy with a second-generation antidepressant.

“This is the first report to demonstrate that ultrasound exposure improved depressive-like behavior in animal models,” Saitoh told us. “We suggest that unlike drug therapy, ultrasound exposure is non-invasive and easy to use. An ultrasound based therapeutic device may therefore aid the treatment and prevention of mental disorders in patients while they go about their daily lives.”

About the Author

Patricia Tomasi

Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog:

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