METRO VANCOUVER – Neuroscientist Ryan D’Arcy envisions a future in which kids playing hockey can know immediately if a knock to the head is a harmless bump or a concussion.
D’Arcy has been appointed to a newly created research chair for multimodal technology at Surrey Memorial Hospital with the goal of developing advanced diagnostic and treatment tools for the treatment of people with traumatic brain injuries.
He hopes to adapt his portable Halifax Consciousness Scanner — which uses brain wave patterns to assess mental function and detect damage — to become a fixture in hospitals and hockey rinks alike.
“We have vital signs like blood pressure and pulse but, despite having the technology, we still haven’t developed a vital sign for determining if your brain is working as it should be or if you’ve got a concussion,” D’Arcy said. “We want to create something as easy to use as a home blood pressure cuff to take a quick reading of your brain’s functional status, so you know if you’ve got a concussion.”
Such a device would detect deviations from established measures of normal brain function for rinkside assessment, but would become a much more powerful diagnostic tool if an individual is tested before an injury, said D’Arcy. A pre-season scan would provide a clear picture of an individual’s normal function and greater certainty about the presence of an injury after a knock on the head and, later, when the effects of an injury have cleared.
“Knowing when a person has recovered gives it an important return-to-play function,” he said.
D’Arcy has pioneered non-invasive technologies that show how structures in the brain are functioning over time, rather than still images.
Technologies such as MRI scanners are powerful, but also large, expensive and cumbersome. D’Arcy is tasked with creating a new generation of diagnostic and therapeutic devices and bringing them to market.
“We are looking at the brain in action,” he said. “And we want to create deployable devices that can go to people wherever they are needed, any time, any place.
A partnership between the provincial government’s Leading Edge Endowment Fund, Simon Fraser University and Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation is providing $5.25 million to fund the chair and a lab will be furnished by the Fraser Health Authority.
Working at the Institute for Biodiagnostics in Halifax, D’Arcy created tools to better monitor changes the brain to guide patient therapy and worked with B.C.’s Capt. Trevor Greene, a Canadian soldier who was attacked with an axe in Afghanistan.
In addition to diagnostic tools, D’Arcy hopes to create therapeutic devices that can “jump start” healing in the brain using magnetic stimulation. Read more…