MAY 24--The NASA-funded National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI; Houston, TX) has developed a lightweight imaging cap to assess brain function. The new imaging device may go where no MRI has gone before.
The device utilizes diffuse optical tomography (DOT), a technique that uses near-infrared light and detectors to record brain activity. The light shines through the skull into the brain and records regional differences in blood flow and oxygen levels. The differences are analyzed to reveal areas of brain activity.
While the cap was designed to assess brain function in astronauts, it also has potential terrestrial uses. Says Jeffrey Sutton, director of the NSBRI, "This portable technology will be beneficial on Earth for assessing, diagnosing, and monitoring treatment in brain disorders such as strokes and seizures." Sutton's lab wants to find out how well the imaging cap performs relative to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the current standard for measuring brain activity noninvasively. The fMRI and DOT techniques are compatible, allowing both tests to be run on a patient simultaneously. The images from both tests are overlayed and the results are compared.
The NSBRI also is developing the computer systems that would allow automated interpretation of data from the imaging cap. This function would be beneficial for Earth-based use in physician's clinics. "Just like automated interpretation of electrocardiograms, this in-office brain function assessment could enhance a physician's ability to diagnose a problem and take the appropriate action," Sutton said.
For more information on the NSBRI, visit link.abpi.net/l.php?20020521A2.