Laser aims to check for concussion through the forehead

Currently, no one test can diagnose concussion. Researchers say a new device that uses infrared lasers could offer the first step in changing that.
The concussion detection device sits on a table in a dark room, red lights coming from its open sides and green light coming from fibers coiled on its top

A new noninvasive method can measure whether brain cells are in distress with an infrared laser, researchers report.

The new device uses optical fibers to deliver pulses of infrared light to a person’s forehead. This light can penetrate through the skin and skull to the brain without doing harm. It interacts with an important molecule for metabolism called cytochrome C oxidase, or CCO.

While existing technology can give real-time information on whether the brain is getting oxygen, this new device gives information about whether the brain cells are able to use that oxygen. This information could enable diagnosis of concussions on the sidelines of an athletic event. Alternatively, it could provide rapid feedback as doctors adjust treatment in the ER, operating room or the intensive care unit.

With no way to reliably tell whether an athlete has a concussion, many may continue to play with an undiagnosed injury. Further, 2 million people die every year because we don’t have an early warning when brain cells are dying—and another 4 million experience cognitive disabilities. The new device could help change things.

Here, the device’s developers discuss how the new device works and who could benefit:

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