Machine Design

Researchers use radar to screen patients for concussions

Georgia Institute of Technology

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are developing a radar-based method of screening people for the early signs of a concussion. They use a 10.5-GHz continuous-wave radar, similar to the traffic radar used by police, to record a person’s movements when walking.

They also recorded the walking motions of people wearing goggles that simulate alcohol impairment by distorting the view, limiting peripheral vision, and causing double vision. (Past research has shown that concussions cause the same symptoms as those of a person with 0.05% blood-alcohol level.)

Unfortunately, the radar discerned no differences in the gaits of those wearing goggles versus those not wearing them.

Subjects were then asked to perform a relatively simple mental task, such as reciting the months of the year in reverse order, while their gaits were recorded by radar and analyzed. Analysis revealed that those not wearing goggles had more periodic gaits with regular and higher velocity foot kicks, along with faster torso and head movements.

Researchers theorize that adding the mental task lets the researchers examine a person’s cognitive and motor skills to detect signs of a concussion.

They plan to reduce the size of the radar and analysis hardware and expand the database so the device will work on patients of all ages and sizes. The device could eventually be used by military medics in forward areas and by sports doctors to monitor footfall players and others involved in contact sports.

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.

TAGS: Sensors
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