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New Smart Cap can 'Read' Your Mind

Sunday June 01, 2014

Business Standard - Scientists have developed a new mind-reading cap that uses LEDs to record neural activity. 

Researchers advanced a brain-scanning technology that tracks what the brain is doing by shining dozens of tiny light-emitting diode (LED) lights on the head. 

This new generation of neuroimaging compares favourably to other approaches but avoids the radiation exposure and bulky magnets the others require, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.

The optical approach to brain scanning is ideally suited for children and for patients with electronic implants, such as pacemakers, cochlear implants and deep brain stimulators (used to treat Parkinson's disease). 

The new technology is called diffuse optical tomography (DOT). 

The DOT instrument covers two-thirds of the head and for the first time can image brain processes taking place in multiple regions and brain networks such as those involved in language processing and self-reflection (daydreaming). 

The technique works by detecting light transmitted through the head and capturing the dynamic changes in the colours of the brain tissue. 

Although DOT technology now is used in research settings, it has the potential to be helpful in many medical scenarios as a surrogate for functional MRI, the most commonly used imaging method for mapping human brain function. 

Because DOT technology does not use radiation, multiple scans performed over time could be used to monitor the progress of patients treated for brain injuries, developmental disorders such as autism, neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's, and other diseases, researchers said. 

Unlike fMRI and Positron emission tomography (PET), DOT technology is designed to be portable, so it could be used at a patient's bedside or in the operating room. 

Using DOT, researchers can get reliable data to a depth of about one centimetre of tissue. 

That centimetre contains some of the brain's most important and interesting areas with many higher brain functions, such as memory, language and self-awareness, represented, researchers said. 

During DOT scans, the subject wears a cap composed of many light sources and sensors connected to cables. 

The full-scale DOT unit takes up an area slightly larger than an old-fashioned phone booth, but researchers have built versions of the scanner mounted on wheeled carts. 

The research was published in the journal Nature Photonics.

(1 June 2014). Business Standard. New smart cap can 'read' your mind. http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/new-smart-cap-can-read-your-mind-114060100470_1.html