Brain Tracking: Unraveling Mysteries of the Human Mind


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— For the first time ever, neuroscientists at UCLA are measuring human brain waves while a person is in motion. They’re observing epilepsy patients with previously implanted brain sensors. Those sensors are in the section of the brain linked to memory and a person’s navigation. Brain tracking

“We have them come in and we’re able to record their brain activity from this device,” explained Nanthia Suthana, PhD, a neuroscientist at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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The patients wore a specially designed backpack with a wireless system that captured brain waves and eye movements in real time. The researchers instructed patients to explore an empty room, find a hidden spot, and remember it.

“And we’re able to look at the activity deep in the brain, in an area that we know is important for memory. It’s actually an area that is first affected in Alzheimer’s disease,” Suthana described.

Scientists found the brain waves were stronger when the participants returned to search for a hidden spot or saw another person approach the location.

“So, we’re very interested in how this area works, such that we can inform potential future therapies for treatments of Alzheimer’s disease,” shared Suthana.

It’s research helping scientists map out mysteries of the human mind with brain tracking.

The scientists say earlier studies in rodents showed the animal’s brains worked in similar ways to help them keep track of their location, but prior to developing the wireless backpack, the studies couldn’t be replicated in humans because imaging machines would require them to be tethered in one place. The UCLA team has made the backpack available to other researchers to speed discoveries about brain disorders.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer & Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: The brain is the body’s control center and part of the nervous system which includes the spinal cord and a large network of nerves and neurons. The nervous system controls everything from our senses to the muscles throughout our body. When a brain is damaged, it can affect memory, sensation, and even personality. Brain disorders include any conditions or disabilities that affect the brain and include conditions that are caused by illness, genetics, and traumatic injuries. A doctor will likely perform a neurological exam to check vision, hearing, and balance, and may also get images of the brain to help make a diagnosis. The most common diagnostic imaging tools are CT, MRI, and PET scans.


STUDYING BRAIN WAVES AND MEMORY: Scientists have researched and recorded how human brains navigate physical space and keep track of others’ location. They used a special backpack to wirelessly monitor the brain waves of epilepsy patients. “We were able to directly study for the first time how a person’s brain navigates an actual physical space that is shared with others,” said Nanthia Suthana, PhD, an assistant professor of neurosurgery and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Our results suggest that our brains may use a common code for knowing where we and others are in social settings.” The backpack contains a computer system which can wirelessly connect to the electrodes surgically implanted in a patient’s head. The researchers revealed the computer can simultaneously be hooked up to several other devices including virtual reality goggles, eye trackers, and heart, skin, and breathing monitors.


NEW TREATMENT FOR BRAIN DISORDERS: Targeted pulses of ultrasound can be used as a highly accurate treatment for a range of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and neuralgia. The new ultrasound techniques are a genuine advantage for clinical practice. “The techniques developed in Vienna and Toronto represent innovative additional options we can use to supplement the existing established treatments. The patient data that has now been published show that the transcranial ultrasound innovations are safe and ready for broad clinical application,” said Roland Beisteiner, who oversaw the development at the Department of Neurology of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital. The huge advantage of this technique is it is virtually free from any side-effects.






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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Nanthia Suthana, PhD, Neuroscientist

Read the entire Q&A