Under the direction of Dr. Patrick Plenger, one of our own clinical neuropsychologists, Pate is currently conducting research on recovery of brain activity following an injury using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy or fNIRS. fNIRS works by shining an array of infrared light beams onto the scalp. These lights are held in place by what looks like a shower cap. The light goes through the skin and bone of the head, and, depending upon how much oxygen is present in the blood, it is either scattered or absorbed in the cortex (the grey matter of the brain).
Since nerves in the brain (neurons) need more oxygen when they are working, this system is able to measure neuron activity by measuring increases and decreases in oxygen. fNIRS provides an alternative to the use of MRI for measuring brain activity, and allows the patient greater freedom of movement. The FDA has considered this technology safe, and it is even used in newborn infants.
In conjunction with a doctoral student from University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), we are presently working with UTA researchers with the goal of using fNIRS in treatment of patients with various types of acquired brain injuries.