Wireless sensor measures brain injury
"Blast-induced traumatic brain injury, already one of the most significant wounds throughout Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, has become increasingly prevalent," says Riyi Shi, a professor in Purdue University’s Dept. of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. "About 167,000 blast-induced traumatic brain injury cases have been documented during both deployments alone."
The consequences are dire, ranging from neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy to neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety.
"These risks pose a substantial public health burden upon military members’ return to civilian life, as the conditions are generally chronic and involve lengthy and costly treatment courses both in terms of dollars and quality of life," says Shi. "To pursue targeted innovation of new preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic measures, we must first develop a greater understanding of pathogenesis, the initiating mechanical events and the links between blast-induced damage and subsequent neuropathologies."
The new research involves the use of a biocompatible "soft magnet" wireless sensor, inserted into the brains of laboratory rats. Because the gel-like magnet has mechanical properties similar to that of brain tissue, it is able to move with the brain when exposed to blast trauma, says Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering. "This is the first time that anybody has been able to measure brain deformation in real time wirelessly,” Ziaie says.
Findings showed the brain does not move in a simple linear direction, but rather in a more complex motion covering a wide arc, likely resulting in greater damage than that caused by ordinary blunt-force trauma.
According to Ziaie, "There is no way to see brain deformation in blast-induced trauma events using conventional imaging technologies. Because this is a wireless device, we can track the brain’s movement."
The technology has a resolution of five to 10 microns, meaning deformation can be measured in minute detail. The magnet’s motion is tracked with three external sensors, creating a precise 3-D measurement.
"The system’s response time is very fast – milliseconds or faster," says Ziaie. "Ordinary sensors take a signal every second, but the blast events are finished in a matter of milliseconds, so you miss everything."
The magnet is about 3 mm in diameter in size. According to the researchers, it can be inserted into any part of the brain to study, for example, the hippocampus, which is critical for memory.
For more, see the paper "A Wireless Intracranial Brain Deformation Sensing System for Blast-Induced Traumatic Brain Injury."
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