Researchers in Europe have combined ultrafast ultrasound with electroencephalography (EEG) to localize seizure sites in the brain microvasculature of newborn babies whose cortexes had developed abnormally.
Senior study author Olivier Baud, MD, PhD, of the Robert Debré University Hospital in Paris and colleagues accomplished the feat after first demonstrating the feasibility of using real-time functional ultrasound neuroimaging (fUSI) in neonates.
This involved combining a customized flexible headmount and ultrafast Doppler with continuous video recording.
“Imaging the human brain with fUSI enables high-resolution identification of brain activation through neurovascular coupling and may provide new insights into seizure analysis and the monitoring of brain function,” lead author Charlie Demené et al. report in Science Translational Medicine.
Science magazine, which like the journal is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, explains the import of the development in lay terms.
“Baud’s team aimed for a soft spot: the anterior fontanelle, a membrane-covered gap between the bones of an infant’s skull, which hardens as the bones fuse around age 2,” reporter Emily Underwood writes. “The researchers attached a 40-gram ultrasonic probe to the anterior fontanelles of six healthy babies. A flexible silicon mount kept the device in place, while a wire transmitted data to a computer.”
The probes are only around the size of a domino, Underwood adds, but they’re 50 times as sensitive at measuring blood flow as conventional ultrasound.
The technique may also be useful for monitoring other kinds of brain abnormalities than those that cause seizures, potentially enabling drug research and early intervention in conditions such as cerebral palsy and autism, for example.