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Phys Med Biol. 2017 Jun 21;62(12):4728-4740. doi: 10.1088/1361-6560/aa63e3. Epub 2017 Mar 1.

Prediction and near-field observation of skull-guided acoustic waves.

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Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging (IBMI), Helmholtz Center Munich, Ingolstaedter Landstraße 1, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany.


Ultrasound waves propagating in water or soft biological tissue are strongly reflected when encountering the skull, which limits the use of ultrasound-based techniques in transcranial imaging and therapeutic applications. Current knowledge on the acoustic properties of the cranial bone is restricted to far-field observations, leaving its near-field unexplored. We report on the existence of skull-guided acoustic waves, which was herein confirmed by near-field measurements of optoacoustically-induced responses in ex-vivo murine skulls immersed in water. Dispersion of the guided waves was found to reasonably agree with the prediction of a multilayered flat plate model. We observed a skull-guided wave propagation over a lateral distance of at least 3 mm, with a half-decay length in the direction perpendicular to the skull ranging from 35 to 300 μm at 6 and 0.5 MHz, respectively. Propagation losses are mostly attributed to the heterogenous acoustic properties of the skull. It is generally anticipated that our findings may facilitate and broaden the application of ultrasound-mediated techniques in brain diagnostics and therapy.

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