Leading edge concussion research underway

Dr. Ryan D’Arcy is the co-inventor of the Halifax Consciousness Scanner, a device that assesses if a person’s brain is working normally after an impact.

The way in which a concussion is assessed may be changing thanks to the help of the Halifax Consciousness Scanner and its co-inventor Dr. Ryan D’Arcy.

The scanner uses a person’s brainwaves to assess whether or not a person’s brain is working normally or not after an impact, explains D’Arcy, professor and B.C. Leadership Chair at Simon Fraser University and Fraser Health Authority.

Initially used to assess the brain’s level of function following a major brain injury, D’Arcy and Mindful Scientific Inc., are in the process of testing the scanner in assessing minor brain injuries like concussion, such as after an accident on the slopes or in a return-to-play situation like hockey.

The scanner tests five areas of the brain’s function—sensation, perception, attention, memory and language. D’Arcy explains that the scanner provides a way to measure what he would call the brain’s “vital signs.”

“It’s a specific tool for (assessing) brain injuries. Any time you hit your head and there’s a suspected brain injury, you can check your brains ‘vital signs.’”

The scanner is different from other concussion tests such as ImPACT or the Glasgow Coma Scale because it uses brainwaves to assess a person’s brain activity and function rather than using a person’s behavioural responses. D’Arcy said that the scanner could be a way to circumvent potentially unreliable, or subjective, responses, by getting a response directly from the brain.

The current design of the scanner involves sensors that are placed on a person’s scalp and a strap around the chin. This is plugged into a wireless device, about the size of a smartphone, which obtains the data.

“The test itself runs in five minutes,” says D’Arcy. “(Results can then) be analyzed and, ultimately we’re not there yet, but the goal is that they’ll be produced right away.”

D’Arcy also said that the scanner is being developed as user-friendly technology, so it can be used by anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Sun Peaks Health Association President, John Hatchett, said the Sun Peaks Health Centre is working to be involved in research using the scanner. They’re also in discussion with the Sun Peaks Resort Corporation about the project.

D’Arcy asserts that the research will mean more accurate assessment of mild brain injuries, but highlights that the major goal is to get the technology into the hands of the people who need it.

“We’re running both major brain injury and concussion studies. The idea is to collect the data to show how it works, improve how it’s working (and) to get devices like this so that they can be in ski resorts and clinics.”

For more information about the Halifax Consciousness Scanner visit www.mindfulscientific.ca/hcs

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