March 9, 2009

Non-invasive brain mapping project created

U.S. and Japanese scientists say they will work together to help develop a non-invasive, revolutionary brain-mapping device.

Mikio Kubota of Seijo University and Mayako Inouchi of Waseda University will join the University of Houston's biomedical imaging lab as visiting faculty members to help develop the device. University officials said Kubota and Inouchi will work with lab's director, Associate Professor George Zouridakis, in expanding the technology that might 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 is developing fits on a patient's head, Zouridakis said, 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 brain tissue, is then reflected 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.

Zouridakis said his team wants to eliminate such obstacles.