Indiana University School of Medicine researchers are developing a new, noninvasive brain stimulation technique to treat neurological disorders, including pain, traumatic brain injury, or TBI, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and more. Researcher Xiaoming Jin says given the increasing use of brain stimulation in human brain study and treatment of neurological diseases, this research may have a big impact on physicians and their patients. The technique uses a new type of magnetoelectric nanoparticles that can be delivered to a specific part of the brain using a magnetic field. Then, a magnetic wave can be emitted to stimulate neural activity in that particular part of the brain. The method is noninvasive, good for stimulating deep brain function and is more efficient than traditional methods of brain stimulation, without the need for genetic manipulation. When someone experiences a brain injury, nerve injury, or neurodegeneration, such as in epilepsy and TBI, damage to the brain can lead to damage and loss of nerve or neurons and development of hyperexcitability. Jin says the conventional treatment is mainly to try to directly inhibit such hyperexcitability. But researchers found the initial damage of the brain or nerve system was caused by a loss of brain tissue, which causes the nervous system to compensate for loss of function by working harder, so we need to stimulate activity instead of inhibit it, Jin says. This is the only new type of nanoparticle that allows researchers to effectively stimulate the brain without doing any invasive procedures. Researchers can inject the nanoparticle as a solution into the vein and then bring it to any part of the body, Jin says. When you apply a magnet on the head, you can localize and deliver the nanoparticle to the targeted brain region.
In other news, scientists at IU have found that significant amounts of the two main components of cannabis, THC and CBD, enter the embryonic brain of mice in utero and impair their ability as adults to respond to fluoxetine, a drug commonly used to treat anxiety and depression that’s known by the brand name Prozac. The study suggests that when the developing brain is exposed to THC or CBD, normal interactions between endocannabinoid and serotonin signaling may be diminished as they become adults. Researchers studied four groups of pregnant mice. Some received daily moderate doses of either THC, CBD, or a combination of equal parts THC and CBD; a control group was given placebo injections throughout pregnancy. Using mass spectrometry, IU researchers tested embryos and found that CBD and THC both could reach the embryonic brain, determining that the drug was making it past the placenta. Researcher Hui-Chen Lu says the surprising part is that maternal exposure to CBD alone -- a drug that is often considered as safe and harmless and is a popular 'natural' therapy for morning sickness -- resulted in a lasting impact on adult mice offspring. Both prenatal THC and CBD exposure impaired the adult's ability to respond to fluoxetine. Lu says the study’s results suggest taking a cautious approach to using CBD during pregnancy.