'ECG for the mind' - Early detection of mental health illnesses

An innovative diagnostic technique invented by Brian Lithgow could dramatically fast-track the detection of mental and neurological illnesses.

The biomedical engineer has developed electrovestibulography - something akin to an ‘ECG for the mind’ – which measures patterns of electrical activity in the brain’s vestibular (or balance) system against the distinct response patterns found in Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

Brian Lithgow and researchers at the MAPrc tested volunteers and found distinct response patterns that distinguished different CNS diseases from each other and from regular electrovestibular activity.

"The patient sits in a specially-designed tilt chair that triggers electrical responses in their balance system. A gel-tipped electrode placed in the ear canal silences interfering noise so that these meaningful electrical responses are captured and recorded," Brian Lithgow said.

"The responses are then compared to biomarkers indicative of particular CNS disorders allowing diagnosis to be made in under an hour."

Brian Lithgow teamed up with Neural Diagnostics to develop and patent electrovestibulography, or EVestG™. It is hoped the inexpensive screening process will become standard practice in hospitals around the world.

Neural Diagnostics CEO Dr Roger Edwards said EVestG™ could be one of the most significant inventions ever to come out of Monash.

"CNS disorders cost upwards of US$2 trillion globally and affect one in four people sometime in their lifetime," Dr Edwards said.

"At present, diagnosing these conditions is done almost exclusively through questions and interviews and it can take many years for sufferers to be correctly diagnosed."

MAPrc director Professor Jayashri Kulkarni said while engineering and psychiatry were two disciplines that did not usually work together, the collaboration was at the forefront of translating biotechnology into clinical tools for psychiatric practice.

"While there is more work to be done, electrovestibulography could provide a major breakthrough in the diagnosis of serious mental illnesses," she said.

For more information call +61 3 9076 6924.





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