Brain temperature can now be measured using light

Fresh Science, Media releases

Nanotech technique could revolutionise neurological treatments.

Light could replace invasive techniques to measure brain temperature– eliminating the need to place a thermometer in the brain when treating a range of neurological disorders.

Researchers from Victoria’ Swinburne University have teamed up with Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain and Stanford University in the US to develop a technique for measuring sub-degree brain temperature changes using near-infrared light. 

Knowing the temperature of the brain is often essential for disease diagnosis. Heating specific areas can also be useful in treating the symptoms of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain.

However, existing techniques for measuring brain temperature are either not very sensitive, or require direct contact, which necessitates making a hole in the skull and risks damaging the organ.

Scientists led by Blanca del Rosal have developed a technique that uses thermosensitive nanoparticles to measure brain temperature through the skin and the skull.

Blanca del Rosal Rabes, Swinburn University of Technology

The nanoparticles emit near-infrared light which, unlike visible light, can penetrate biological tissue. This enabled the researchers to monitor brain temperature in real-time in a mouse model of coma, showing that the dramatic decrease in brain activity was accompanied by a reduction in brain temperature.

“It’s a very cool discovery,” says del Rosal. “If it can scale up to humans the approach could make diagnosis of brain injury and neurological trauma much, much easier.”

The research was recently published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

For the full Swinburne University of Technology press release, click here.

Further reading:

del Rosal, Blanca, Diego Ruiz, Irene Chaves‐Coira, Beatriz H. Juárez, Luis Monge, Guosong Hong, Nuria Fernández, and Daniel Jaque. “In vivo contactless brain nanothermometry.” Advanced Functional Materials 28, no. 52 (2018): 1806088. DOI: