Investigator Profile: Q&A with Seung-Schik Yoo, PhD, MBA

Seung-Schik Yoo, PhD, MBA, is making breakthroughs in using focused ultrasound to induce functional neuromodulation of the brain and peripheral nervous system. With his global collaborative partners, he is experimenting with various FUS parameters to move the field closer to achieving this important milestone in humans.

YooQ. When and how did you get involved in FUS?
My laboratory was created in 2007 by the late professor Ferenc Jolesz and myself. We had limited and unconfirmed a priori information (i.e., papers) on using FUS to change regional brain function. We happened to have a real-time functional MRI (fMRI) technique to monitor the functional brain responses to the various FUS operating parameters. Dr. Jolesz recommended exploring the possibility of FUS effects on animal brains in vivo, and we were one of the very few groups to demonstrate its potential.

Q. What are your areas of interest in FUS? What indications do you study?
Because no method is currently available to modify regional brain function without surgery and medication, we are studying neuromodulation “from earthworms to humans” in the aspects of neurostimulation and blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption. We are working on non-invasive functional neuromodulation of the brain and peripheral nervous system using low-intensity FUS, which could be suitable for many clinical applications, including a wide spectrum of neurological and psychiatric conditions (imagine what you can do if you can change one's brain function without surgery and medication!).

Q. What is the goal of your work?
Our goal is the development of completely non-invasive and non-pharmacological functional modulation for region-specific central and peripheral nervous system applications. We are pursuing novel exploration of state-of-the-art and affordable non-invasive neuromodulation techniques for clinical applications and neuroscience.

Q. Where does your funding come from?
We are funded by the NIH as well as other sources, including the FUS Foundation.

Research Details

Q. What types of facilities, space, and equipment do you have?
We share space with the BWH Focused Ultrasound (FUS) Laboratory and Functional Neuroimaging laboratory. We share some resources with the FUS Lab, and we have our own single-element low-intensity transcranial (tFUS) system with full image-guidance capability.

Wonhye LeeQ. Who are your team members?
My colleague Wonhye Lee, PhD, (pictured at right) is  a recent recipient of Young Investigator Award from the FUS Foundation. He and I have 15 years of experience in various neuroimaging techniques and biomedical engineering, including real-time functional MRI. Our laboratory team of seven includes three students (undergraduate and graduate), one postdoctoral researcher, and three faculty.


Q. Who are your internal and external collaborators?
Internally we collaborate with Drs. McDannold and Tempany. Our external collaborators are the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, the University of Virginia, Incheon Saint Mary's Hospital in Korea (Dr. YongAn Chung); the University of Puerto Rico (Dr. Eduardo Juan), and the University of Zurich (Dr. Ernst Martin).

Yoo infographicQ. What are your grea achievements? Any major disappointments?
We have demonstrated the feasibility of acoustic neuromodulation from small and large animals to humans. The lack of understanding in the fundamental physiology behind the phenomena casts many challenges.

Q. What do you see as impediments to your success?
First, the lack of funding. Secondly, a lack of a cross-disciplinary approach and a shortage of collaborations—both country-wide and worldwide.

Q. What is your research wish list?
I would like more funding opportunities for multiple- and single-array FUS systems and their use in human neuromodulation. It would also be good to have another workshop on neuromodulation followed by the formation of on-going working groups.

Q. Did the Foundation play a role in your work?
The Foundation supported the important and crucial initial rodent and large animal studies using transcranial FUS for functional neuromodulation. I am eternally grateful for their support because it provided early and timely funding when not much financial support was available for this type of highly exploratory work.

Past Coverage of Dr. Yoo’s Work

Key FUS Publications

Lee W, Kim H, Jung Y, Song IU, Chung YA, Yoo SS. Image-guided transcranial focused ultrasound stimulates human primary somatosensory cortex. Sci Rep 2015 Mar 4;5:8743.

Jung YJ, Kim R, Ham HJ, Park SI, Lee MY, Kim J, Hwang J, Park MS, Yoo SS, Maeng LS, Chang W, Chung YA. Focused low-intensity pulsed ultrasound enhances bone regeneration in rat calvarial bone defect through enhancement of cell proliferation. Ultrasound Med Biol 2015 Apr;41(4):999-1007.

Kim H, Park MY, Lee SD, Lee W, Chiu A, Yoo SS. Suppression of EEG visual-evoked potentials in rats through neuromodulatory focused ultrasound. Neuroreport 2015 Mar 4;26(4):211-5.

Yoo SS, Lee W, Kim H. Pulsed application of focused ultrasound to the LI4 elicits deqi sensations: pilot study. Complement Ther Med 2014 Aug;22(4):592-600.

Kim H, Chiu A, Lee SD, Fischer K, Yoo SS. Focused ultrasound-mediated non-invasive brain stimulation: examination of sonication parameters. Brain Stimul 2014 Sep-Oct;7(5):748-56.