26 May 2009

Smarter Brain Monitoring

In recent years, better sensor technologies and data-processing techniques, as well as more detailed knowledge of the brain, have dramatically improved the information that can be extracted from EEG. For example, scientists now use computationally intense signal processing and pattern-recognition techniques to predict where in the brain a particular signal measured on the surface of the scalp originated or how different parts of the brain are connected. _TechnologyReview_via_ImpactLab
The before and after images on the right demonstrate the effects of two weeks of therapy on the brain of a stroke patient. Evidence of improved brain activity suggests that the therapy is working. Using information from EEG, advanced methods of data analysis can provide clinicians with up to the minute information about functional brain status.
EEG currently has a number of clinical applications--diagnosing sleep disorders or pinpointing the origin of a seizure, for example--but ElMindA and others aim to broaden its clinical use. The company has developed a novel system that calculates a number of different parameters from EEG data, such as the frequency and amplitude of electrical activity in particular brain areas, the origin of specific signals, and the synchronicity in activity in two different brain areas as patients perform specific tests on a computer. "We usually find patterns of activity which are very unique for the specific state of the patient," says Amir Geva, founder of the company and head of the biomedical laboratory at Ben-Gurion University.

The researchers are currently characterizing those patterns in the context of stroke therapy. Intensive rehabilitation after stroke can improve speech and motor problems by helping the brain to rewire, compensating for damaged circuits. At present, choosing the best therapy option for a patient is in part a trial-and-error process that can take weeks. But because healing capacity declines over time, it's imperative to find the most successful treatment as soon as possible after the stroke.
Therapy for stroke, depression, ADHD, etc. can be guided by this new type of "imaging". The equipment is far more portable than MRI scanners and PET scanners and reagents. In fact, using EEG neurofeedback in real time, therapists could actually watch the impact of therapy on brain learning and rehab while it is occurring during therapy.

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