Currently, concussion is measured by the symptoms someone experiences, but it is difficult to know what is happening in the brain in any one person. To address this problem, a portable brain imaging system was developed that uses light to detect and monitor damage in the brain from concussion. The device, a Near-Infrared Spectroscope, measures communication in the brain by measuring oxygen levels. When the brain is working well, major regions on each side of the brain are communicating and have similar patterns of blood flow and oxygen levels in blood. Researchers measure the changes in blood oxygen levels as a marker of brain function. Results show that these patterns change after concussion.
There can be physiological changes in the brain that last for months to years after a brain injury due to concussion. The new technology can be used to see how important these changes are, and how concussion evolves over time.
Symptoms can vary greatly between individuals, and can include headaches, nausea, loss of memory, and lack of coordination, making it even more difficult to find treatment options for each person. The images obtained using the new system could show a connection between symptoms and abnormalities in the brain that could help doctors identify treatment protocols and recovery timelines.
To image the brain, a cap, similar to a swim or bathing cap, is placed on the top of the head. The cap contains small lights that have sensors connected to a computer. When researchers turn on the lights, they can monitor and measure brain activity. The device is noninvasive and portable.