Discovery Magazine

Development of a Fieldable Brain Trauma Analyzer: Phase 2

An immediate and definite need exists for a portable diagnostic device for the assessment of cortical function, and diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI.) This project's aim is the development of a portable device and testing protocol for the objective and quantitative diagnosis of acute mTBI suspects. Mild traumatic brain injury is hypothesized to involve derangement or damage to the underlying cortical network. In particular fundamental building blocks of the cortex are changed in such a way as to limit the functional connectivity within and between cortical columns.

This proposal investigates a multimodal approach based on sensory illusions and configured as a test of neural connectivity. A portable, low-cost diagnostic device that can quantitatively and objectively screen patients for brain injury, including mild traumatic brain injury and concussion, would have significant benefits to the military and civilian populations. The ability to objectively screen soldiers who have been exposed to any head injury risk factors would be a significant advancement. Quick and accurate field screening of acute mTBI will lead to faster and better medical intervention and command decisions, and reduce risk for post-concussion syndrome. Of critical importance in the battlefield setting; potential operational risks posed by any possible cognitive and behavioral problems may be greatly reduced. 

Objective and early screening of mTBI subjects would be of significant benefit for the military and civilian (particularly athletic) populations. We have presented initial data demonstrating the effectiveness of a vibrotactile assessment protocol in discriminating between recently concussed and healthy normal groups that could be readily implemented into a portable, fieldable testing device with modifications of existing technology.