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WPI’s Ji Granted Two NIH Grants for Concussion Detection

Photonics.com
Oct 2017
WORCESTER, Mass., Oct. 10, 2017 — With two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Worcester Polytechnic Institute biomedical engineering professor Songbai Ji is using advanced neuroimaging to develop highly specific computer models of the head and brain to better diagnose concussions in real time.

Songbai Ji, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is researching how injuries affect functionally important neural pathways and specific areas of the brain. Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Songbai Ji, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is researching how injuries affect functionally important neural pathways and specific areas of the brain. Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Ji, whose research integrates neuroimaging into existing brain injury research, focuses on how injuries affect functionally important neural pathways and specific areas of the brain. While there are numerous studies that essentially view the brain as a single unit to determine injury, certain components like white matter neural tracts deep within the brain are more vulnerable and thus may be better indicators of injury.

Ji is developing a sophisticated head injury computer model to produce a strain map as part of a four-year $1.5 million NIH grant titled "Accumulated white matter fiber strain from repetitive head impacts in contact sports." Co-principal investigators include colleagues from Dartmouth College, Indiana University School of Medicine and medical device developer Simbex. In a separate two-year, $461,545 NIH grant titled "Model-based cumulative analysis of on-field head impacts in contact sports," Ji is working to make the model simulation in real time.

"Typically it would take hours to produce a detailed strain map for each impact to determine if someone has a concussion," Ji said. "But we are developing a model simulation in real time."

According to the most current data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 330,000 children aged 19 or younger were treated in emergency rooms across the United States in 2012 for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or traumatic brain injury.

Ji envisions that, in the future, an athlete on the field could be wearing protective gear, such as a helmet or mouthguard, equipped with an impact sensor. When an athlete's head is struck, the sensor would record the acceleration, which would provide input to the computer model. Because Ji will have precomputed various strain maps into a computer, athletic trainers could quickly retrieve a strain map of the blow that could be used to assess injury risk.

"But the computational cost is now too high for real-world applications," Ji said, "and that's why we are also developing a real-time simulation technique.… My research team understands just how important it is to advance concussion research for athletes of both genders and of all ages."

BusinessBiophotonicsNational Institutes of HealthWorcester Polytechnic InstituteWPISongbai Jiconcussionssensing and detectinggrantsAmericasSensors & Detectorsimaging

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