This electromagnetic coil can detect brain injuries wirelessly

This head-mounted coil can’t read your mind, but it can tell if you’ve experienced brain trauma. The cheap medical diagnostic, a volumetric electromagnetic phase-shift spectroscopy (VEPS) clinical coil, is meant to function as a substitute to full CT scans in parts of the world where those aren’t available, and has now been field tested in Mexico.

The VEPS technique isn’t quite the same as reading brain waves: it looks at perturbations made by the brain tissue in a weak electromagnetic field. If excess fluid is present due to swelling or bleeding, it will show up as blips in the conductivity. This can be indicative of brain trauma that might not be externally obvious, but that could require time-sensitive treatment.

A small-scale study using the VEPS coil has now validated that it can indeed distinguish between healthy adults and individuals who were known to have brain trauma from earlier CT scans. This means that VEPS could stand in for CT scans in places like rural Mexico. Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers also demonstrated that VEPS can tell brain edema, or swelling, from bleeding. Another insight from the study was that the aging brain’s electromagnetic transmission starts to resemble that of a younger brain with a hematoma (bleeding).

Two of the authors, Boris Rubinsky of UC Berkeley and Cesar Gonzalez from Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute, are patent holders on some VEPS-related IP that has been licensed to a company called Cerebrotech. Cerebrotech has received funding from TriStar Technology Ventures and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. The research published today, however, was not done with Cerebrotech’s involvement.