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A new technique to view the brain activity of bodies in motion

The answer to treating neurological disorders could be tucked away in our head. That’s why the EU-funded TwinBrain project developed novel technology to monitor a patient’s brain activity while they move around their environment. Not only does this advance our understanding of brain function, it could open the door to treating neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s.

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Over 8 million people around the world suffer from Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative brain condition that impacts their motor abilities, and often causes additional physical and mental disturbances.

While the answer to treating Parkinson’s and similar neurological diseases could be tucked away in our head, scientists know surprisingly little about the dynamics of the brain during routine movements such as walking and balancing.

That’s because most neuroimaging studies must be conducted under static conditions, where a subject lies horizontally in a body scanner and thinks about moving – an approach that fails to capture dynamic situations such as walking and running, and the complex brain patterns associated with them.

That is now changing, thanks to advancements in Mobile Brain/Body Imaging (MoBI) technology. “Until recently, it was impossible to combine brain and movement investigations,” explains Uroš Marušič, a researcher at the Slovenian Mobile Brain/Body Imaging Laboratory. “MoBI makes such investigations possible, allowing us to monitor brain dynamics simultaneously with biomechanical parameters of human motion.”

With the support of the EU-funded TwinBrain project, researchers from Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland are using this technology to measure brain signals while walking, running or doing other types of physical and mental exercise.

From data to meaningful insights

At the heart of the MoBI system is data on brain signals, and lots of it. According to Marušič, just a short five-minute stroll will produce a staggering 1 gigabyte of measurements. “Converting this wealth of data into meaningful insights meant harnessing the power of supercomputers and employing various machine learning protocols,” he says.

Unfortunately, such technology isn’t readily available on the market, meaning the TwinBrain project had to get creative. “One of the unique aspects of our experiment is the integration of cutting-edge wireless technologies,” adds Marušič. “By fusing various technologies, we were able to synchronise a patient’s brain activity with their muscular activity and replicate this movement through real-time avatars.”

This groundbreaking approach allows researchers to monitor and track a patient’s brain activity, not while laying down and thinking about moving, but as they actually move around their environment.

When used to examine patients with early-stage Parkinson’s, the TwinBrain MoBI system provided the researchers with surprising new insights. Preliminary results indicate a significantly more complex activation pattern than previously thought, patterns that are particularly evident during more demanding forms of movement.

Such information could help doctors diagnose Parkinson’s earlier. “Identifying the disease at an early stage lets us take proactive measures to mitigate its progression – measures that can improve the patient’s quality of life,” notes Marušič.

More work ahead

While the TwinBrain project represents the next step in the field of brain research, advancing our understanding of the most complex organ in the human body, there is still more work to be done. That’s why the project is currently working with equipment providers to further refine the MoBI technology. Some of the project’s partners are also involved in additional EU-funded initiatives that aim to further maximise the potential of TwinBrain’s MoBI technologies.

“This work not only underscores the positive impact of the project, but also emphasises our commitment to advancing the field of MoBI,” concludes Marušič. “Our ultimate goal is to see this innovative technology become an integral part of clinicians’ and neurologists’ daily practices, revolutionising the way they approach patient care and diagnosis.”

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Project details

Project acronym
Project number
Project coordinator: Slovenia
Project participants:
Total cost
€ 899 735
EU Contribution
€ 899 735
Project duration

See also

More information about project TwinBrain

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