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New Research to Impact Future of Sports Concussion Diagnosis

Villanova engineering professor’s specialized brainwave software has potential to predict and diagnose concussions, PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease and sleep disorder

VILLANOVA, Pa., January 31, 2011 -- With the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers poised to do battle for the Super Bowl XLV crown, concern about recognizing and minimizing the incidence of concussions in sports could once again be back in the spotlight. Media coverage of concussion awareness rose to a fever pitch earlier this season fueled by an Associated Press report that this type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) had risen 21 percent in the first eight weeks of the regular season.

Dr. Hashem Ashrafiuon, a mechanical engineering professor in Villanova University’s College of Engineering, envisions a day not too far off, when a computer chip embedded in a player’s helmet will transmit brain wave data for instant analysis by software that he and his research team are currently developing for coaches and trainers on the sidelines enabling them to determine if a player has suffered a concussion.

BCILab™ software, developed by Dr. Ashrafiuon and his colleagues from University of Wisconsin and Brain Computer Interface LLC, analyzes human brain wave data (EEG signals) recorded by a headset and predicts abnormalities in brain activity, The software  has applications that reach far beyond the playing field.

“It can basically be used to diagnose any “health problem” that affects brain activity,” Ashrafiuon said. “We hope to monitor brain health in patients with mild traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and sleep and circadian disorders.”

At this stage of their research, Ashrafiuon’s team – which includes Villanova graduate student Parham Ghorbanian and University of Wisconsin psychologist David M. Devilbiss – has developed PTSD software. The software is being developed for Brain Computer Interface (BCI), a Yardley, Pa. firm, to be used in conjunction with the company’s MindScope™ system.

Publication of the research team’s findings is expected this summer. Commercialization of the Mindscope™ system is projected for Spring 2014 – perhaps in time for Super Bowl XLVIII.