It may sound like science fiction, but a Villanova University engineer has developed software that might soon allow a computer chip placed in an athlete’s hat or helmet to transmit information to coaches on the sidelines to indicate a concussion.
The software -- developed by Dr. Hashem Ashrafiuon, a professor at Villanova’s College of Engineering – might also be used to monitor patients’ brain waves for indications of Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, mild cognitive impairment and sleep problems.
Ashrafiuon and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin and Brain Computer Interface LLC are refining the software, which analyzes human brain waves -- known as EEG signals -- that predict abnormalities in brain activity. Small chips could transmit such information to an inexpensive portable EEG medical device that can be easily used in any school or athletic facility, or elsewhere.
"It can basically be used to diagnose any 'health problem' that affects brain activity," Ashrafiuon said, in a Villanova release on the technology. "We hope to monitor brain health in patients with mild traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment, and sleep and circadian disorders."
Ashrafiuon's team has tested the software in a study performed under a U.S. Army Small Business Innovation Research contract to evaluate its potential for diagnosing PTSD. The team is also testing it on Alzheimer's patients in California and skiers and snowboarders in Lake Tahoe.
The team's findings were presented at the recent Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Paris. Researchers said the software could be available for wider use as early as 2014.