USC engineers to work on wireless detection of brain malfunctions

With the help of a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, three researchers from the University of Southern California are setting out on a joint research project to develop a wireless, multisensory system for the early detection of shunt malfunctions in people with excessive brain fluid, according to an announcement from the university.

Principal investigator Ellis Meng, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical engineering, and his fellow researchers hope to devise a way to embed or integrate sensors into shunts for people with hypocephalus, a chronic, incurable condition characterized by excess fluid in the brain. The researchers' proposed system would allow physicians to be able to tell when shunts are failing, which is typically within 10 years, after which patients suffer and medical costs rise.

"I'm pretty thrilled to win this," said Meng, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical engineering at USC. "We get to use some of the technologies we've been incubating, including sensors that work in water."

It's the second time in recent years that USC researchers have landed the award from NSF.

With the proposed new sensor system, "we can get data whenever we want, wherever we want," Meng added.

The National Science Foundation has put a special focus on brain mapping this year. One initiative in which it's involved--the Obama Administration's Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative--officially was launched by the White House in April. At a press conference touting the launch, Obama called the knowledge that potentially could be gained through the project's efforts "transformative."

The NSF, National Institutes of Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will provide approximately $100 million in funding for the BRAIN initiative beginning in FY 2014.

To learn more:
 - read the USC announcement

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