Scientists have developed a backpack that tracks and stimulates brain activity as people carry out their daily activities.
The technology is “a demonstration of what is possible” with portable neuroscience equipment, says Timothy Spellman, a neurobiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine. The backpack and its extensive kit of tools, he says, could widen the landscape for neurological research to study the brain while the body is moving.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners, which detect activity in different regions of the brain, are about the size of a truck and can cost more than $ 1 million.
And patients should remain motionless inside the device for about 1 hour to ensure a clear and legible scan.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (SMT) is also not portable; Patients should sit still and upright in a laboratory for about 30 minutes, while a coil provides magnetic pulses through the scalp to activate electrically. neurons.
Looking for a better way, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed what they call the mobile platform for recording and deep brain stimulation.
A wand comes out of a 4 kilogram backpack and you reach the top of the patient's scalp. There, the wand can communicate with a neural implant that is deep in the brain.
Meanwhile, the backpack is full of monitors – a configuration that allows real-time data collection from the implant.
The team has publicly released backpack software and plans for all scientists to use, says study author Uros Topalovic, UCLA. The hope is that other researchers can use the technology to study neurological conditions of all kinds, without the constraints of a laboratory or a hospital bed.