New brain scanner might save babies' lives

Dec. 19, 2005 at 5:44 PM

LONDON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- University College London scientists are developing a portable brain scanner that could save the lives of newborn babies.

By providing information about the brain function of premature and newborn infants in intensive care, the scanner negates the need to move critically ill babies to conventional scanning facilities, which has a degree of risk.

A prototype using the advantages of magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound, while avoiding their disadvantages, incorporates a technique called optical tomography to generate images.

A helmet incorporating 32 light detectors and 32 sources of safe, low-intensity laser light is placed on a baby's head. The sources produce short flashes and the detectors measure the time the light takes to travel. A software package builds a 3D image that can show which parts of the brain are receiving oxygen, where blood is situated, evidence of brain damage, etc.

The prototype is the size of a refrigerator and takes around 8 minutes to generate an image. The scientists are now trying produce a version half that size and five times faster.

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