Researchers Developing Cap That Monitors How Brain Is Flushed Clean During Sleep

·2-min read

A cap that monitors how the brain is flushed and made fresh during sleep is being developed.

Researchers at Rice University, in Houston, Texas, are researching how the sleeping brain prepares you for a new day. Backed by the U.S. Army Military Operational Medicine Research Program (MOMRP), the study will look at how the glymphatic system pumps cerebrospinal fluid into the brain during sleep, flushing misfolded proteins and other biochemical waste, a process first described only within the past decade.

The current gold standard to view fluid flow in the brain is magnetic resonance imaging, said Paul Cherukuri, executive director of the IBB.

"Since an MRI can't be easily transported, the Department of Defense asked if we can design a small, portable cap that can measure and modulate the brain health of warfighters during sleep to enhance their performance," he said. "Developing this prototype will require us to start with off-the-shelf devices and learn from them in parallel with building our own sensor technology and algorithms at Rice.

"What makes this exciting is that nobody's ever attempted to build anything quite like this before," Cherukuri said.

Engineers at Rice University's NeuroEngineering Initiative in partnership with the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering (IBB) and physicians at Houston Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine will develop a "sleeping cap" to analyse the cleansing flow of fluid that drains the brain of common metabolic waste during sleep. The $2.8 million award issued through the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium is for the first year of what the research team anticipates will be a multiyear grant from the U.S. Army.

The primary goal is to noninvasively measure and modulate the flow of cerebrospinal fluid as it circulates through the brain and clears waste. Ultimately, the team aims to develop a lightweight, portable skullcap that can analyse and stimulate proper flow to treat sleep disorders in real time. The researchers expect to deliver preliminary results of their work in a year.

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