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New blood test for brain injury at URMC

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have a new, FDA-approved test to detect brain injuries, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal The Lancet Neurology.

The new test looks for certain telltale proteins that enter the bloodstream after a traumatic brain injury. Jeffrey Bazarian, a professor of emergency medicine and neurology at URMC and a lead author of the study, said the blood test promises to reduce the need for CT scans of the head, which he said have been the "gold standard" of brain injury detection.

Those scans are one of the few ways doctors have of seeing inside the head, Bazarian said. An opening in the blood-brain barrier, which happens as a result of a traumatic injury, offers another. "It's usually closed," Bazarian said of the barrier, "but a blow opens it up, which is lucky for us because it allows us to have a brief window into what's happening in the brain."

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Study Supports Blood Test to Help Diagnose Brain Injury

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

For the first time in the U.S., a blood test will be available to help doctors determine if people who’ve experienced a blow to the head could have a traumatic brain injury such as brain bleeding or bruising.

Until this point, physicians have relied on subjective markers – mainly patient-reported symptoms such as headaches, nausea, or light sensitivity – to make an educated “guess” on which individuals have brain trauma and require a head CT scan. Particularly among athletes who may hide symptoms in order to keep playing, a subjective assessment is not always reliable. The new test provides an objective indicator of injury that can potentially be obtained quickly and easily in busy emergency departments.

In February 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the test as part of a fast track program to get breakthrough technologies to patients more quickly. Called the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator®, the test aids in the evaluation of patients with a suspected traumatic brain injury or concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury.

Today, the major study that led to approval of the test was published in The Lancet Neurology. The clinical trial included close to 2,000 individuals presenting with a head injury to 22 emergency departments in the U.S. and Europe. Banyan Biomarkers, Inc., the company that developed the test, is working with its commercial partners to make the test available in hospitals and emergency departments.

“Many concussion patients don’t seek medical care for their injury, a decision due in part to the perception that emergency departments have nothing to offer in terms of diagnosis,” said lead study author Jeffrey J. Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “The results of this study show that we now have something to offer—a brain biomarker blood test. The ability of this test to predict traumatic injuries on head CT scan will soon allow emergency physicians to provide patients with an unbiased report on the status of their brain.”

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Training brains—young and old, sick and healthy—with virtual reality

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

An accidental discovery by Rochester researchers in 2003 touched off a wave of research into the area of neuroplasticity in adults, or how the brain's neural connections change throughout a person's lifespan.

Fifteen years ago, Shawn Green was a graduate student of Daphne Bavelier, then an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University. As the two created visual tests together, Green demonstrated exceptional proficiency at taking these tests himself. The two researchers hypothesized that it might be due to his extensive experience playing first-person, action-based video games. From there, Green and Bavelier demonstrated that, indeed, action-based video games enhance the brain's ability to process visual information.

In years since, video gaming technology has gotten more sophisticated, regularly incorporating or featuring virtual reality (VR). The Oculus Rift headset, for example, connects directly to your PC to create an immersive VR gaming experience.

If we know that action-based video games enhance visual attention, might VR games do the same (and perhaps to a greater degree) because of the increased level of immersion?

That's the question a current group of Rochester researchers—Duje Tadin, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences; Jeffrey Bazarian, professor of emergency medicine; and Feng (Vankee) Lin, assistant professor in the School of Nursing—hope to answer.

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