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Brain Injuries: Research Aims at Earlier Detection

As another football season gets underway for the Chicago Bears and other teams, it's worth taking a moment to consider some of what been learned so far on brain injury detection.

It isn't only that society has grown increasingly concerned about brain injuries in football and other sports. It's also the fact that head injuries are common in car accident cases and in other types of personal injury cases, such as falls.

Military veterans also frequently suffer such injuries when on active duty.

No matter how the brain injury was suffered, however, the consequences can be very serious. That is why early detection is so important.

Recent research suggests that portable magnetic sensors would potentially be developed to identify brain injuries more quickly. They would work by analyzing the brain's magnetic field and measuring changes in it. This type of ability to monitor brain waves could conceivably help develop innovative applications for injured - prosthetic legs controlled by brain waves, for example.

Dr. Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal of the University of Houston is one of the key researchers in this area. "This is a transformative technology," said Dr. Contreras-Vidal, an electrical and computer engineering professor.

The "magnetometers," as they are called, are still being tested in the laboratory in the prototype stage. They were originally created at a federal laboratory in Denver operated by Dr. Svenja Knappe and others.

"We are trying to make them small and inexpensive," Dr. Knappe told the New York Times. They are quite small, with each one only the size of sugar cube. But if they could be mass-produced, several hundred of them could be used in special headgear designed to identify changes in brain waves.

That information could then be used to detect brain injuries.

Source: "Magnetic sensors may allow early detection of brain injuries," Star Tribune / New York Times, Ann Eisenberg, 8-28-12

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