A device for evaluating concussion, designed by scientists at UNC-Chapel Hill, has caught the eye of the NFL and may one day be widely available.
The device, called “The Brain Gauge,” is so easy to operate that it’s hard to believe how much science actually went into its design.
“The point of the technology is to take very complicated science that does very complicated mathematics and make it completely accessible to anyone with a computer with a computer mouse,” said Bob Dennis, one of two UNC scientists who designed it.
Like a game, “The Brain Gauge” sends a signal to either your middle or pointer finger on the mouse and you decide which finger you believe received the pulse.
“A lot of people do a lot of brain testing online. But there’s no biological interface with those tests,” said Mark Tommerdahl, the other scientist involved in the development. “You’re just answering questions. The difference here is you’re actually tested by using stimuli to the fingers that actually stimulate adjacent parts of the brain. And those places in the brain talk to each other in a very specific way.”
“The Brain Gauge” is not so much a diagnostic tool as it is an effective way to evaluate the severity of head trauma, especially shortly after impact.
Tommerdahl and Dennis’ company, Cortical Metrics, recently received a $300,000 grant from General Electric and the NFL to help develop “The Brain Gauge.” The NFL, which has been sued by former players whose lives have been affected by concussions, says research like this is vital to their mission of concussion prevention.
“The NFL’s participation in advancing science is one that we take on as our responsibility,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Health and Safety Director. He said the more the league has learned about concussions, the more it appreciates the world class researchers, scientists, advisors and others working on the issue.
Tommerdahl and Dennis, who spend a lot of their time perfecting “The Brain Gauge,” said they believe within a year they will be able to start mass producing it. Dennis said the device will help people evaluate how well their brain is functioning on a day-to-day basis. “We want to make “The Brain Gauge” affordable enough so that anyone can own it,” he said.
The anticipated price is between $20 and $40.