A portable device for the assessment of brain condition
The researchers of the Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) are developing a portable device for the analysis of brain electrical signals, which would enable to assess brain functioning.
In cooperation between the TUT Department of Computer Engineering and the Department of Biomedical Engineering of TUT Technomedicum, a prototype of an innovative portable electroencephalography (EEG) analyser has been completed and introduced to the members of the Steering Committee of the Centre of Excellence CEBE by the Project Manager and Senior Researcher Maksim Jenihhin this week. The EEG analyser, which is developed under the Centre for Integrated Electronic Systems and Biomedical Engineering CEBE, could be used to assess brain condition during the regular medical checks of workers with high sense of responsibility, such as policemen, rescue workers or military staff members, as well as wider population.
The EEG spelling resembles the term electrocardiography, abbreviated EKG, and this is not incidental. The EKG is used to check the electrical activity of the heart, while the EEG measures the electrical signals of the brain. However, in contrast to the EKG, the doctors are generally not interested in the EEG. The reason lies mainly in the fact that it is very difficult to understand brain activity. While cardiac electrical signal has a specific shape and it is possible to diagnose the heart condition according to those changes, the electrical signal received from the brain is completely irregular. “Millions of brain processes take place simultaneously, thus it is very difficult to distinguish the necessary ones,” says Hiie Hinrikus, the Lead Research Scientist of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
At the same time, based on the data of the USA National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a quarter of the population has some sort of mental disorder and about six percent (one out of every 17 people) suffers from serious illness. The fast pace of life constantly increases mental burden and thus raises the number of people suffering from mental disorders. The early detection of mental disorders before the emergence of subjective symptoms would allow preventing them from deepening and significantly improving treatment.
Hinrikus with her colleagues Maie Bachmann, Jaanus Lass, and others is engaged in the research of the electrical signals of the brain in cooperation with the North Estonia Medical Centre and the West Tallinn Central Hospital. For this, they compare the EEG signals of healthy people and patients with various brain disorders. Thanks to advanced signal processing techniques, they have learned to distinguish small changes in the EEG signal. Bachmann’s research work won at the ICT project competition and the aim of this research is to create databases of the EEG signals to investigate brain disorders and develop efficient algorithms to identify them.
The TUT researchers’ original EEG analysis technique is protected by a fresh US patent. “We are thinking of laboratory tests, but not about production for the time being,” Hinrikus describes further plans to develop the EEG analyser.