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November 19, 2020 Thursday 11:26:58 AM IST

Wearable imaging cap provides a window into babies’ brains

Parent Interventions

A team led by UCL researchers has demonstrated a new form of wearable, baby-friendly brain mapping technology that has important implications for understanding developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy. The technology uses harmless levels of red and near-infrared light delivered via a wearable cap to generate detailed 3D images of babies’ brain activity. It means doctors and neuroscientists can image a baby’s brain without needing MRI, which is expensive and difficult to apply while babies are awake. It also means researchers can study the infant brain in almost any environment, including in the home where babies and parents naturally interact.

In the paper, published in NeuroImage, academics and engineers from UCL, Cambridge University, the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge and London-based start-up company Gowerlabs Ltd demonstrate the technique, known as high-density diffuse optical tomography (HD-DOT), in six-month old infants. The wearable cap employs hundreds of LEDs and optical detectors arranged in a dense network over the scalp to map changes in oxygenation in the brain.

These changes in oxygenation show the areas of the brain that are busy processing information, meaning the team was were able to create high-quality, 3D images of baby brain activity for the first time outside an MRI scanner.

The technology was developed by UCL spinout company Gowerlabs Ltd., whilst the work demonstrating its capabilities was led by Dr Cooper, with support from an EPSRC Early Career Fellowship.

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