New Brain-Mapping Technology

The noninvasive technology may offer a more thorough understanding of brain activities and help diagnose traumatic brain injuries in emergency rooms and on the battlefield.

The device the team has in the works fits on a patient's head, UH’s Biomedical Imaging Lab director George Zouridakis explained, and its configuration of fiber optics and special electrodes sends light, via laser diodes, into the brain. The light, which becomes scattered as it travels through the layers of the brain tissue, is then reflected back out of the brain and is measured by a set of sensors. It is the reflected light's unique properties that indicate what's going on in the brain, he said.

"The typical approach currently used for brain mapping is functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI," said Zouridakis. "However, an fMRI scanner is expensive, on the order of millions of dollars, and confined in one place, as it requires a shielded room because of the strong magnetic fields. It also requires specialized personnel to maintain and operate."

"Our technology marries high-density electroencephalography, or EEG, which measures the electrophysiological activity of the brain, with near-infrared spectroscopy, or NIRS, which provides information about cerebral blood flow," Zouridakis said. "Like the EEG, NIRS is portable, costs only about $200,000, does not need a special room or personnel to maintain, and can quantify both direct and indirect measures of brain activity."

Combining the merits of EEG and NIRS, Zouridakis explained, will allow the team to study both electrical and metabolic activities at the same time and improve patient benefits.

"All the methodologies I work with are noninvasive – that is, there are no holes to drill, no electrodes to implant in the brain of a patient," Zouridakis said. "My hope is to one day see the current invasive and expensive gold-standard procedures used in clinical neurophysiology for brain mapping replaced by completely noninvasive ones. This will improve the quality of life of patients and, at the same time, reduce the cost of health care delivery."; Source: University of Houston