Given the importance of sleep in human life, the US Army is funding the development of a special device capable of monitoring the intensity of brain activity during sleep.Chronic sleep deprivation is known to cause serious health problems, such as Alzheimer's disease. However, why this happens remains a mystery. Nine years ago, scientists made a major breakthrough with the discovery of the glymphatic system. Its main purpose is to cleanse the cerebrospinal fluid from the toxins produced during deep sleep.
Until now, the glymphatic system could only be studied using cumbersome MRI equipment. The US Army has therefore allocated $2.8 million (in the first year of research) to create a special wearable device in the form of a compact headgear. A team of researchers from Rice University, Houston Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine was tasked with implementing the project.
The device is a cap equipped with sensors which record brain signals which are then processed by special algorithms. The device is also supposed to stimulate the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to the brain.
The electrical activity of the brain can be monitored on an electroencephalogram (EEG) obtained with the sensors, while a rheoencephalogram will show the intensity of blood flow. Sensors will measure its speed using ultrasound pulses. Some of these pulses - orbital sonography - are sent through the eye socket. Other pulses - Doppler ultrasound - travel to the brain through the skull.
The flow of cerebrospinal fluid can then be controlled using transcranial electrical stimulation (a method of physiotherapy based on the use of pulsed current of low amplitude) and low-intensity focused ultrasound pulses. The first experimental results may be available within a year.