Using non-invasive electrodes to track the brain's electrical activity -- or brainwaves -- researchers have developed a simple way to monitor brain health over time.
The discovery makes it possible to translate complex brainwaves into objective, practical and deployable brain vital signs, using longstanding brainwave technologies that have existed for nearly a century.
"We know brainwaves provide an objective physiological measurement of brain functions," said lead researcher Ryan D'Arcy, Professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.
"We've been working for the last 20 years to solve the major gap in terms of utilising this for a rapid and accessible vital sign for brain function," D'Arcy noted.
In a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, the researchers described how their framework translates complex brainwave science into clinically accessible information and demonstrates successful measurement of brain vital signs in both younger and older adults.
Their method identified age-related brain function changes that were not evident using traditional measures.
"We describe the world's first physiology-driven brain vital-sign measure allowing us to quantify brain vitality over time," lead author Sujoy Ghosh Hajra, PhD student working with D'Arcy, noted.
Traditionally, brain function has been assessed only after trauma or disease has occurred and has relied heavily on subjective, behaviour-based assessments.
"However, tracking our brain's vital signs is critically important for establishing a baseline for a person's objective brain activity," D'Arcy added, noting that in the event of injury or disease, it then becomes possible to evaluate if brain function changes, and whether treatments are effective.
"The brain vital-sign framework described in Frontiers in Neuroscience represents the first step towards an easy way to monitor brain health," he said.
"Potential applications are in concussion, brain injury, stroke, dementia and other devastating brain diseases and disorders," D'Arcy explained.