Entries in Brain Monitoring (2)


New Brain Monitor Aims to Alert Doctors When Patients Wake During Surgery

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- While under general anesthesia during an emergency Caesarean section, Angela D’Elessio’s eyes were closed and her body was unable to move, but she remained fully conscious.

“It was like a searing pain,” she told ABC News recently. “I felt like I was being burned....I was awake as I am right now and having surgery – both with feeling and sensation and mental awareness, exactly the way I am now except I was paralyzed. It was terrifying.”

Her doctors had no way of knowing that D’Elessio was experiencing anesthesia awareness and was feeling everything.

But a new approach that could monitor consciousness may provide a breakthrough.

Dr. Giulio Tononi, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, believes that the electrical signals – sight, sound and pain -- spreading across the brain create consciousness. During surgery, anesthesia stops the signals from spreading, making a person completely unconscious.

Tononi’s new awareness monitor stimulates the brain with an electrical current and then looks to see whether the signal has spread. In a truly unconscious brain, the signal would not spread; in a brain aware during surgery, the signal would.

“You don’t want the patient to move, to feel any pain, to have any memory [during a surgical operation],” Tononi said. “You’re actually injecting current to the brain and finding out whether the various parts of the brain are talking to each other or not.”

Experts say anesthesia awareness occurs because anesthesia is more of an art than a science. It’s more common in women and runs in families. According to the International Anesthesia Research Foundation, for every 1,000 patients under general anesthesia, one or two will be aware.

“It’s a frightening experience,” D’Elessio said. “It really does affect somebody’s life a great deal.”

Details of Tononi’s work are available in the "Atlantic" magazine currently on newsstands.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Brain-Control Interfaces Could Help Detect Fatigue, Distraction

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- A new class of brain-computer interface technology could not only let you control devices and play games with your thoughts, but also help detect fatigue in air traffic controllers and other workers in high-stakes positions.

Researchers at the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, have made it possible to place a cellphone call by just thinking about the number.  They say the technology could also tell whether a person is actively thinking, or nodding off.

Tzzy-Ping Jung, a neuroscience researcher and associate director of the center, said the system uses brainwave sensors (or Electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes) attached to a headband to measure a person's brain activity.  The brain signals are then transferred to a cellphone through a Bluetooth device connected to the headband.

In the lab, he said, test subjects sit in front of a screen displaying 10 digits, each flashing at a different rate.  The number one, for example, may flash nine times per second, while the number two flashes at a slightly higher frequency.

As participants view each number, the corresponding frequency is reflected in the visual cortex in their brains, he said.  That activity is picked up by the sensors, relayed through the wireless Bluetooth device and then used to dial numbers on the cell phone.

Assuming all goes according to plan, if you place the headband on your head, sit at the screen, and then view the digits 1-2-0-2-4-5-6-1-4-1-4, your thoughts alone should lead you to the White House switchboard.

Jung said that results vary from person to person, but many people can reach 90 or even 100 percent accuracy.

For now, the technology is just in the developmental phase. But Jung, who has been studying neurological engineering since 1993, said, "We're trying to move from the lab to the real world, step by step."

In time, applications could potentially give consumers a hands-free way to use their cell phones or people with disabilities a new way to interact with the world.  But, Jung said, more passive uses of the technology could already be used to detect fatigue or lapses in attention in people who work in fields where concentration is essential.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio