London: A revolutionary `hairnet` that tracks brain waves could speed up the detection of Alzheimer`s.
Called the Cognition System, the high-tech hairnet is undergoing trials in the US. If these prove successful, the device could be tested in Britain as part of worldwide trials.
The hairnet is made up of tiny sensors, held together by adjustable straps, which are able to pick up patterns of electrical activity linked with onset of brain wasting disease, once they come in contact with the skull.
The technology could mean drugs that slow disease progression could be given to patients much sooner, keeping them in good health for longer, the Daily Mail reports.
Doctors often rely on a memory assessment, or relatives` descriptions of behavioural changes, such as anxiety, irritability or repetitive behaviour.
But in recent years, numerous studies have shown that changes in electrical activity in the brain could be one of the earliest signs.
Scientists have been studying something called event-related potentials - brain waves produced in response to a stimulus; for example, a noise, taste or smell.
These are much stronger in healthy people compared with those generated by a brain in Alzheimer`s. US firm Neuronetrix used this finding to develop the new hairnet.
Once patients don the device, they undergo a test where they are exposed to a series of beeps. In the time they are doing this, the sensors on their scalp are measuring changes in brain-wave activity.
Anne Corbett, research communications manager at the Alzheimer`s Society, Britain, cautioned: "The most promising way to diagnose Alzheimer`s is still through a combination of tests."
First Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2011, 17:57