A collaboration between the Israeli company ElMindA, and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, has generated research results that could lead to better concussion assessments and more effective treatments.
UPMC was contacted by ElMindA to conduct research on the effects of its brain-mapping technology, Brain Network Activation (BNA™), a noninvasive technique of gathering data on brain activity. BNA applies sophisticated signal processing and pattern recognition algorithms to three-dimensional images, capturing information on the composition, connectivity, synchronization and operation of brain networks.
A device that looks like a high-tech hair net is placed over the subject’s head, and its sensors create a three-dimensional image of brain activity.
The device was showcased at the just-completed AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.
Compared to MRIs and CT scans, it is quicker, more comfortable and has more sensors, according to Anthony Kontos, assistant research director at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program and associate professor of orthopaedic surgery in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.
The newly developed algorithmic analysis picks up more activity in the brain than traditional EEG analysis.
For concussions, the technique can be useful in “the assessment of injury status and to document recovery and the potential effects of treatment,” Kontos said.
One of the common causes for concussion is sports-related injury. Because the injury is often not directly visible, and early symptoms may appear mild, it is often not diagnosed in a timely manner, which can lead to significant life-long psychological impairment; early assessment and management of the injury are, therefore, critical.
The Israeli company contacted UPMC’s Concussion Program to do research on the efficacy of the tool, Kontos said, because of the program’s worldwide reputation in the field of concussion work.
“We have about 18,000 patients a year,” he said. “People come from far away, including Canada and Europe.”
In their collaboration with ElMindA, Kontos and his team evaluated 112 children with and without concussions, looking at their brain activity at four post-injury time frames, he said.
The research confirmed that BNA was beneficial in three areas: differentiating between those with concussions and those in a control group; showing a recovery pattern over time; and helping to differentiate subtypes of concussion injuries, according to Kontos.
Concussion evaluation is just one potential area in which BNA can be useful, Kontos said. It may also be valuable in several other areas, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple sclerosis.
The benefits of BNA can be great, according to Kontos.
“Using the special temporal components lets you see the impairment,” he said. “And the nature of the equipment and the cost are much lower than MRIs and CT scans, which don’t tell us much about this kind of injury anyway.”
BNA is not yet available for commercial use, he said, and currently is awaiting FDA approval.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)