Digital cameras see a sharper mind

NOVEMBER 3, 2009--Try as you might, you can never hold perfectly still -- your body will twitch and jerk with movements nearly invisible to the eye.

NOVEMBER 3, 2009--Try as you might, you can never hold perfectly still -- your body will twitch and jerk with movements nearly invisible to the eye. And if you're a patient in a hospital or the subject of a research study, this squirming will blur the images created by scanning devices like MRI machines, limiting their ability to spot minute details.

Chester Wildey of the University of Texas - Dallas is working on a way to detect and compensate for these slight movements using a modified digital camera. The camera tracks a pair of glasses worn by the subject and records minute movements of the head. "Using a regular 640 X 480 camera, we can detect movement down to a micron," says Wildey. "You can't see movement that small with your eye."

Image-processing software developed by his group crunches this data in real time, allowing scanners to be adjusted and achieve better resolutions. The technology has been used by researchers in Texas looking for evidence in the brain for Gulf War syndrome, a controversial physical illness thought to be connected to service in the Gulf War. Wildey believes that the technology could help researchers looking for other subtle changes in the brain -- such as those studying the neurological basis of attention deficit disorder. The camera is also being adapted to measure a person's heartbeat from a distance by recording slight movements in tabs attached to the pulsing skin. Wildey hopes that this may lead to a way to detect atherosclerosis by comparing heartbeats in different parts of the body.

For more information, go to www.eurekalert.org.

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