Scientists have invented a headband that they claim can detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease while the wearer sleeps.
The device, dubbed a “Fitbit for the Brain,” contains tiny sensors that monitor brain waves.
It is programmed to detect changes in the part of the brain responsible for memory reactivation, which is determined by different proteins.
Researchers had more than 200 patients in their 70s wear the headband six nights a week for two years in the first study of its kind that could lead to cheap, portable EEG devices that monitor brain health, detect preclinical AD and track response to treatment. .
The device, equipped with electroencephalography (EEG), monitors brain wave patterns related to memory reactivation
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain in which the buildup of abnormal proteins causes nerve cell death.
This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages and causes the brain to shrink.
More than 5 million people have the disease in the United States, the sixth leading cause of death nationwide.
The headband was invented by scientists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Washington University in St. Louis, who discovered a method for assessing sleep-related brain activity related to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, which It often manifests itself long before the symptoms of dementia appear.
Brice McConnell, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said: “This digital biomarker essentially allows any simple headband EEG device to be used as a physical activity tracker for brain health.”
The researchers analyzed data from 205 older adults, identifying measurable problems with memory reactivation associated with levels of proteins such as amyloid and tau that accumulate in Alzheimer’s disease. Pictured is lead scientist Brice McConnell.
“Demonstrating how we can assess digital biomarkers to detect early signs of disease using affordable and scalable in-home headset devices is a breakthrough in detecting and mitigating early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.”
All participants did not have any very mild cognitive impairment, except for one participant who had mild cognitive impairment.
The team hypothesized that the headband could find potential biomarker properties related to memory reactivation during sleep.
These biomarkers include theta bursts (TB) that ameliorate depression, sleep spindles (SP) associated with non-rapid eye movement, and slow waves (SW), the deepest level of sleep lasting up to 40 minutes during each period.
The researchers believe that the changes “The ‘coupling’ of these events may indicate an early pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).’
The team used the headband to map the precision of the coupling of SW-TB and SW-SP neural circuits to the Alzheimer’s biomarkers of amyloid positivity, cognitive impairment, and cerebrospinal fluid (brain shock absorber).
The headband fits comfortably on the head, allowing users to sleep with it on.
Previous research has shown that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the buildup of amyloid beta protein in the brain, leading to neuronal toxicity in the central nervous system.
Following data collection, the researchers determined that cognitive decline was correlated with a lower concentration of tuberculosis in the SW-TB mating.
And those with cognitive impairment demonstrated lower accuracy in SW-TB and SW-SP coupling.
“What we found is that these abnormal protein levels are associated with reactivations of sleep memory, which we were able to identify in people’s brain wave patterns before they experienced any symptoms,” McConnell said.
“Identifying these early biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease in asymptomatic adults may help patients develop preventive or mitigation strategies before the disease progresses.”
The researchers also believe this is an exciting step toward using wearable devices as digital biomarkers for disease detection.
“With this work we are only scratching the surface, paving the way for the creation of affordable and easy-to-use devices to monitor brain health,” says McConnell.
“This is proof-of-principle that brain waves during sleep can be turned into a digital biomarker, and our next steps involve refining the process.”