A brainwave vital-sign test may one day become just as commonplace at the doctor’s office as checking your blood pressure and heart rate, if all goes according to plan for researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada.
“We know brainwaves provide an objective physiological measurement of brain functions,” said study leader Professor Ryan D’Arcy, SFU’s BC Leadership Chair in Medical Technologies. “We’ve been working for the last 20 years to solve the major gap in terms of utilizing this for a rapid and accessible vital sign for brain function.”
Traditionally, brain waves have been measured only after trauma or disease, and the method has relied heavily on subjective, behavior-based assessments.
“However, tracking our brain’s vital signs is critically important for establishing a baseline for a person’s objective brain activity,” D’Arcy says, adding that in the event of injury or disease, it then becomes possible to determine if brain function changes, and whether treatments are effective.
The new brainwave-assessing method was developed by scientists in D’Arcy’s NeuroTech Lab, based in Surrey Memorial Hospital. They set out to develop a simple way to measure brain health over time by using non-invasive electrodes to track the brain’s electrical activity for key brain functions — in other words, the brain’s vital signs.
Using longstanding brainwave technologies, their new method makes it possible to translate complex brainwaves into objective, usable brain vital signs.
“The brain vital-sign framework described in Frontiers in Neuroscience represents the first step towards an easy way to monitor brain health,” said D’Arcy. “Potential applications are in concussion, brain injury, stroke, dementia, and other devastating brain diseases and disorders.”
Vital sign assessments are often taken in clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers to assess the performance of various body systems.
Researchers found that it is possible to monitor brain performance during auditory sensation, and basic attention and cognitive processing.
In the paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers describe how their new method translates complex brainwave science into clinically accessible information and demonstrates successful measurement of brain vital signs in both younger and older adults. Their method also identifies age-related brain function changes that were not evident using traditional measures.
“We describe the world’s first physiology-driven brain vital-sign measure allowing us to quantify brain vitality over time,” said Sujoy Ghosh Hajra, a Ph.D. student working with D’Arcy and the paper’s lead author.
The measuring device was developed with Mayo Clinic, Sheba Medical Centre, and the technology company HealthTech Connex.
Source: Simon Fraser University