Professor Jürgen Götz from UQ's Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) led a multidisciplinary team to show low-intensity ultrasounds' ability to restore cognition -- evidencing the effects on mice.
The research has been published in Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry.
The discovery was made when the team saw positive results in a control group that were being exposed only to ultrasound.
"Historically, we have been using ultrasound together with small gas-filled bubbles to open the almost-impenetrable blood-brain barrier and get therapeutics from the bloodstream into the brain," Götz said.
The use of ultrasound bypasses the need to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, providing greater accessibility and a less invasive form of brain treatment.
The research is particularly pertinent in Australia due to its ageing population.
In 2021, Dementia Australia estimated there are 472,000 Australians living with dementia. Without any medical breakthroughs, this number is expected to increase to over 1 million by 2058.
To date, the treatment of dementia has largely been confined to symptomatic treatment but this new method has the potential to target its root cause.
"The entire research team was surprised by the remarkable restoration in cognition," said Götz.
"We conclude therapeutic ultrasound is a non-invasive way to enhance cognition in the elderly."
The non-invasive treatment could provide a way to not only reduce the degenerative effects of dementia, but also restore cognitive function in the ageing population.
"We believe there may be some overlap between physiological and pathological ageing in the brain and the potential for this to be corrected with ultrasound is meaningful for those living with Alzheimer's disease," he said.
"We are taking these findings and implementing them in our Alzheimer's research as we go forward to clinical trials."