BARNABY, British Columbia, June 2 (UPI) -- Although imaging and other tests can help doctors establish certain aspects of a patient's brain health, there has not been a method of easily tracking the organ the way other parts of the body can be monitored.
Researchers at Simon Fraser University have developed a system to test physiology-based brain vital signs using electrodes to monitor the organ's performance during auditory sensation, basic attention and cognitive processing.
Brain function is generally only assessed after trauma or diagnosis of disease, with many aspects of evaluation based on subjective measures of doctors, because of a lack of information. A method to regularly, quickly check brain health could help find more injury or disease, as well as more accurately measure the effects of treatment.
The lack of a reliable way to track brain health results misdiagnosis rates as high as 43 percent, according to previous studies, which researchers say demonstrates a need for the system they're working on.
"Tracking our brain's vital signs is critically important for establishing a baseline for a person's objective brain activity," Dr. Ryan D'Arcy, a professor at Simon Fraser University, said in a press release.
For the study, published in Frontiers of Neuroscience, the researchers evaluated four candidate EEG systems with sixteen healthy participants, 8 of whom were between ages 20 and 35 and 8 between the ages of 50 and 85.
The researchers found they were able to establish baseline brain measures easily and non-invasively, though they write in the study that more research is needed with larger groups of people. Further tests of all four systems are also needed to establish standards for their use, as well as analysis of data collected using the systems and more comprehensive evaluations of brain health along the lines of vital signs desired from monitoring.
"We know brainwaves provide an objective physiological measurement of brain functions," D'Arcy said. "We've been working for the last 20 years to solve the major gap in terms of utilizing this for a rapid and accessible vital sign for brain function."