Surrey-born ‘Brain Vital Signs’ technology under development. It is being called “game-changing” for global brain health. (Photo submitted)

‘Game-changing’ B.C.-born technology tests brain vital signs

B.C. neuroscientist describes the tech as ‘the world’s first objective physiological yard stick for brain function’

A new technology out of Surrey is “game-changing” for brain health.

Just ask Dr. Ryan D’Arcy of Surrey’s HealthTech Connex, whose team is responsible for the health-care breakthrough.

“You can’t fix what you can’t assess,” said D’Arcy, a B.C. neuroscientist behind the technology, which he describes as “the world’s first objective physiological yard stick for brain function.”

Dr. Ryan D’Arcy.

Along with researchers from SFU, D’Arcy has developed a new scientific framework — which includes both new terminology and new software — for analyzing complex brainwave technologies.

The team reverse engineered how vital signs are measured for blood pressure, he explained.

“We’re all aware of vital signs,” said D’Arcy. “Using a blood pressure monitor, for example. Everyone knows the concept. These vital signs are so dramatically impactful on our health.”

The new technology means vital signs now exist for the brain, similar to blood pressure or heart rate. Using scalp monitors, Brain Vital Signs measures brainwaves, and translates them into “rapid, easy to understand, deployable vital signs,” he said.

See also: OUR VIEW: Let’s celebrate Surrey’s medical triumphs

See also: Parkinson’s app the latest from Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard

See also: VIDEO: Brain monitors, virtual reality along Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard

D’Arcy, who founded both the Surrey Neurotech Lab at Surrey Memorial Hospital and Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard, said the impetus for the research into brain vital signs was “a major gap in brain health.” It’s “globally disruptive” technology, he noted, because it can aid in medical treatment of any neurological condition.

The technology has been 20 years in the making, but in the last five years, the work has transitioned from research to testing. So far, testing has involved concussions, traumatic brain injury, dementia, stroke and autism.

Tech diagnosing concussions in hockey players

D’Arcy explained that for three seasons, the brain vital signs technology has been used to monitor brainwaves in hockey players rink-side, in a partnership between Surrey Memorial Hospital, SFU and the Mayo Clinic.

Researchers take baseline measurements of players pre-season and if a player has a suspected concussion, the technology is used at the rink.

D’Arcy explained the problem with current concussion testing at sports games is it’s entirely subjective. Players are asked questions and they know how to anticipate them, he said.

“So they can make themselves seem better than they actually are. It’s not reliable.”

Of course, MRI tests could be done, but that’s not practical to do at a game, he added.

“Once there’s a question of a concussion, the player can go into the change room and very quickly, determine if there’s been a concussion,” D’Arcy explained. “Then we also get their brain vital signs when they return to play. Then post-season, when it’s over, they’re tested again.”

It’s catching concussions that otherwise wouldn’t be found, noted D’Arcy.

Even when subjective concussion tests determine a player is OK, brain vital signs testing has revealed concussive impacts. And, the testing has even uncovered concussive symptoms in players who are just taking checks during games.

“Because it’s objective, it’s brain waves, you can’t fool it,” said D’Arcy. “We know we’re more powerful than behavioural and clinical tests out there currently.”

D’Arcy explained the technology works by profiling brains across six vital signs. “It’s put on a radar plot where all six – if you’re in a good health range – form a hexagon,” he said, referencing an image that shows how the shape changes in hockey players who have been studied.

homelessphoto

(In a study of concussions in hockey players, the Brain Vital Signs technology shows healthy brains presenting as a hexagon, and concussions presenting as a triangle. Photo submitted by Dr. D’Arcy.)

“What’s interesting in this image, players have a hexagon pre-season, and then when you look at a concussion, there is a systematic change in brain vital signs that changes each of the brain responses, where the hexagon turns into a triangle. The triangle profile, we believe right now, is specific to concussion.”

Post-season tests show players revert back to a hexagon, he said.

The testing is currently on-going, but D’Arcy remained tight-lipped about what hockey team is involved.

“We are currently preparing the first round of publications, out soon,” he said.

D’Arcy said the technology has been so effective, that they’re now using it in football and are also doing work related to dementia. More studies will likely materialize as time goes on.

See also: Conquer Mobile’s surgical apps pushing boundaries of technology

See also: VIDEO: Surrey tablet tech to train African healthcare workers in surgery

Meantime, D’Arcy said the technology is in “hot demand.”

“Literally, we can’t keep up with the number of requests,” he noted. “We probably get asked around the world for it multiple times a day.”

HealthTech Connex is anticipating Health Canada approval for the technology’s hardwarde, “NeuroCatch Platform,” next summer, which will make it available to clinics, sporting facilities and care environments worldwide.

Think of the ‘NeuroCatch’ as the brain’s version of a blood-pressure monitor.

After approval is achieved, D’Arcy noted “any specialist, any clinician, could incorporate this and have this.

“It makes it available for wide-scale medical deployment.”

The technology was up for an award earlier this month, as the only Canadian finalist to compete in the 2017 SharpBrain Brainnovations Pitch Contest. While Brain Vital Signs didn’t win, it was the runner-up in the Brain Health and Performance category.

D’Arcy pitched the technology to judges over the internet and said HealthTech Connex’s vital signs was “neck-and-neck” with the victor.

The winning technology, he said, was one that looked at changes in typing patterns to show early signs of Parkinson’s Disease.

“I think the judging panel felt that was something you do anyway, so you wouldn’t have to come into a doctor’s office,” he said.

The virtual-pitch contest was part of the 2017 SharpBrains Virtual Summit, which featured more than 50 of the world’s top experts and innovators who are “working on ways to enhance brain health and performance in light of emerging neuroscience and digital technologies.”

Company developing pubicly-accessible brain tech

While HealthTech Connex’s brain vital signs technology won’t be available for the general public to purchase, the company already has another technology out to help the public manage their brain health.

Think a Fitbit for your brain, said D’Arcy.

“That’s called Brainpower,” he said. “If you want to understand how your brain is doing, you can download it on iTunes.

“We felt it was important to enable all people, so we developed this health and wellness product.”

It allows users to take daily “brain tests” to see how their brain is functioning from day-to-day, and would alert someone if there was a major change in their response, which would be a sign to see a doctor.

And coming soon down the pipeline at HealthTech Connex is something D’Arcy likened to a “Band-Aid that ties into your iPhone” that would immediately alert an individual, via their cellphone, of problems in brain functioning.

“The only debate is how quickly it will come,” he said.

All of these products have one goal, D’Arcy said: “To empower global society to manage their brain health.”

“One in three Canadians, and it’s the same across the world, experience problems around neurologic and mental health in their lifetime,” explained D’Arcy. “The other two or three are constantly concerned about it. So in terms of disruptive impact, it applies to all of us.”

All of these technologies, said D’Arcy, fit within the goal of HealthTech Connex: To turn the complexity of neuroscience into practical, useful things.

“Your brain is what makes you who you are, your personality, your soul, your job, your life, all of it. If you can imagine not knowing how your brain is doing, it means you’re missing a baseline. If I know what my heart and blood pressure is, I can manage my health.

“If I know what my heart and blood pressure is, I can manage my health. If I don’t know where my brain is at, I can’t manage my brain health.”

See also: New kid on the block, on Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard

And all of this advancement is happening in Surrey.

“What I love about this, when we started (Innovation Boulevard) in 2012, people didn’t think stuff went on in Surrey. They’d say, ‘What? Surrey Memorial Hospital and SFU are partnering with the Mayo Clinic?”

“It’s exciting,” D’Arcy said.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Amy on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There are now plans to reduce scaled of a proposed Ballenas running track upgrade. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville Qualicum Beach running track project plans reduced in scale

Track group to switch to community grassroots level due to lack of support from regional district

Tigh-Na-Mara general manager Paul Drummond, left, and SOS executive director Susanna Newton right are prepared for a reinvented Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive in 2020. COVID-19 will not spoil the community’s annual day of giving and help for local families through the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program. (Peter McCully photo)
Reinventing Parksville Qualicum Beach’s popular Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive

COVID-19 restrictions won’t spoil community’s annual morning of giving

Map of the location of the Telus cell tower that it plans to build in Qualicum Beach. (Town of Qualicum Beach Map)
Qualicum Beach council approves location of Telus communications tower

Plan is to improve cellphone service in the area

Jeff Frankford, president of the Rotary Club Qualicum Beach, and John Humphrey of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76 show the site where the Field of Crosses will be placed Nov. 6 to Nov. 12. (Photo submitted)
Field of Crosses honouring soldiers to be erected in Qualicum Beach

Display a memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Conservation officers hope the public can provide information about who shot and left a bull and cow Roosevelt elk near Spruston Road, south of Nanaimo. (Facebook photo)
Pair of Roosevelt elk shot and left in woods south of Nanaimo

Conservation officers hope public can help find who killed the animals near Spruston Road

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a woman who allegedly threw hot coffee on a McDonald’s employee. (News Bulletin photo)
UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP still looking for woman who threw coffee at worker after already receiving refund

Police asking for information in investigation that could lead to assault charges

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read