Brain scanners are no more big and bulky with the latest portable PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanner. It is not only portable its much advanced than the traditional scanner and helps in understanding the brain better.
The portable helmet-like scanner can be worn by a person while talking, singing, walking or playing a guitar. Social experiments can go beyond the artificially controlled environment.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner picturizes brain activity through a radioactive substance used by the cells. Brefczynski-Lewi joined hands with Stan Majewski, a physicist of University of West Virginia, who had patented the rights for the concept to build the prototype. The team received first grants of $1.5 million from president’s BRAIN Initiative through the National Institutes of Health.
The new helmet like device consists of a ring with tiny PET detectors to scan brain function. The bulky detectors are replaced by silicon photo multipliers making PET scanner smaller and portable. It helps in monitoring the brain functioning of a stroke person at rehab or autistic person in his/her social situations.
PET detectors study the body’s functions unlike MRI and X-rays which takes images of physical structures. Doctors first inject patients with special tracer molecules that attach themselves to target tissues. Since the tracers contain radioactive isotopes, physicians can listen for their signals and measure their distribution. As this scanner is worn very close to head and is very sensitive, it necessitates very less dosage of radioactive tracer chemicals when compared with other PET scanners.
Preliminary testing of the device with a fake brain proved successful. Though the output images were bit blur, they showed the little bumps and grooves, known as gyri and sulci, found in the human brain, said Brefczynski-Lewis, The device was also tested on two patients who brain has already been injected with radioactive tracer for cancer showed fruitful. It was also found there was no interference when stuck the helmet with the MRI machine.
Detailed information on this helmet would be known only after the launch of the product. This device is expected to have wider scope and future studies using this could lead to a deeper understanding of healthy brain function, as well as neurological disorders such as dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury and depression, These recently developed advanced tools are much sought after because despite of recent advances, the brain is still an enigma.