Implantable and Wearable Devices

Understanding blast-induced brain injuries from the inside out

Blast-induced traumatic brain injury -- increasingly prevalent among combat veterans -- presents in serious and sometimes devastating ways, ranging from neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy to neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Now, a new system that uses a wireless implant has been shown to record for the first time how brain tissue deforms when subjected to the kind of shock that causes blast-induced trauma.

The new research involves the use of a biocompatible soft-magnet wireless sensor inserted into the brains of laboratory rats. Because the gel-like magnet has mechanical properties similar to that of brain tissue, it is able to move with the brain when exposed to blast trauma, says Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering and member of the Birck Nanotechnology Center

Findings show that the brain does not move in a simple linear direction, but rather in a more complex motion covering a wide arc, likely resulting in greater damage than that caused by ordinary blunt-force trauma. "This is the first time that anybody has been able to measure brain deformation in real time wirelessly,” Ziaie says.

The technology has a resolution of 5 to 10 microns, meaning deformation can be measured in minute detail. The magnet's motion is tracked with three external sensors, creating a precise 3-D measurement.

The magnet is about 3 millimeters in diameter – about six would fit across the diameter of a U.S. penny.

"It can be inserted into any part of the brain to study, for example, the hippocampus, which is critical for memory," says Riyi Shi, a professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.

- Emil Venere, Purdue News Service

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