'ECG for the mind' could diagnose depression in an hour

October 14, 2009

An innovative diagnostic technique invented by a Monash University researcher could dramatically fast-track the detection of mental and neurological illnesses.

Monash biomedical engineer Brian Lithgow has developed electrovestibulography which is something akin to an 'ECG for the mind'. Patterns of electrical activity in the brain's vestibular (or balance) system are measured against distinct response patterns found in depression, schizophrenia and other Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders.

The vestibular system is closely connected to the primitive regions of the brain that relate to emotions and behaviour, so Lithgow saw the diagnostic potential of measuring and comparing different patterns of electrovestibular activity.

Working with psychiatry researchers at Monash University's Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) in Melbourne, Australia, he tested volunteers and found distinct response patterns, or "biomarkers", that distinguished different CNS diseases from each other and from regular electrovestibular activity.

Monash has teamed up with corporate partner Neural Diagnostics to develop and patent electrovestibulography, or EVestG™. It is hoped the simple, quick and inexpensive screening process for CNS diseases will eventually become standard practice in hospitals around the world.

"The patient sits in a specially designed tilt chair that triggers electrical responses in their balance system. A gel-tipped electrode placed in the individual's ear canal silences interfering noise so that these meaningful electrical responses are captured and recorded," the Monash researcher said. "The responses are then compared to the distinct biomarkers indicative of particular CNS disorders, allowing diagnosis to be made in under an hour."

Neural Diagnostics CEO Dr Roger Edwards said the implications of the new technique were huge.

"This could be one of the most significant inventions ever to come out of Monash. CNS disorders cost upwards of $US2 trillion globally and affect one in four people sometime in their lifetime. At present, diagnosing these conditions is done almost exclusively by qualitative measures, through questions and interviews, and it can take many years for sufferers to be correctly diagnosed," Dr Edwards said.

The technique is already attracting international interest and, if further testing goes to plan, it could be adopted in Australian and overseas hospitals within a few years.

"We are doing the necessary research and development and getting independent expert reports done, but results so far are cause for great optimism," Dr Edwards said.

MAPrc Director Professor Jayashri Kulkarni said, "Engineering and psychiatry are two disciplines that do not usually work together, but here at MAPrc, through our collaboration, we are 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 mental illnesses".
-end-
For further information, contact Jane Castles, Monash University Media and Communications on +61 3 9903 4842 or 0417 568 781.

Monash University

Related Hospitals Articles from Brightsurf:

'Best' hospitals should be required to deliver tobacco treatment
A UCLA-led report published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine exposes what the authors call a weakness in the high-profile 'Best Hospitals Honor Roll' published annually by US News and World Report.

Veterans undergoing elective PCI at community hospitals may have increased chance of death compared to those treated at VA hospitals
Veterans who underwent elective percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) for stable angina at a community facility were at a 33% increased hazard, or chance, of death compared to patients treated within the Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System, according to an analysis of nearly 9,000 veterans published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

How should hospitals ask patients for donations?
A new study looks for the first time at patients' views of hospital fundraising, including legally allowable practices that encourage physicians to work with their hospital's fundraising professionals.

Proximity of hospitals to mass shootings in US
Nontrauma center hospitals were the nearest hospitals to most of the mass shootings (five or more people injured or killed by a gun) that happened in the US in 2019.

'Five star' hospitals often provide fewer services than other hospitals, new data suggests
If you're looking for a top-notch hospital with a wide range of services, narrowing your list to hospitals with a five-star patient experience rating might lead you astray.

Costs of care similar or lower at teaching hospitals compared to non-teaching hospitals
Total costs of care are similar or somewhat lower among teaching hospitals compared to non-teaching hospitals among Medicare beneficiaries treated for common medical and surgical conditions, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H.

How common, preventable are sepsis-associated deaths in hospitals?
This study estimates how common sepsis-related deaths are in hospitals and how preventable those deaths might be.

Veterans health administration hospitals outperform non-VHA hospitals in most markets
In a new study, researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, used the most current publicly available data to compare health outcomes for VA and non-VA hospitals within 121 local healthcare markets that included both a VA medical center and a non-VA hospital.

Tele-ERs can help strengthen rural hospitals
A new study from the University of Iowa finds rural hospitals that use tele-medicine to back up their emergency room health care providers save money and find it easier to recruit new physicians.

Hospitals may take too much of the blame for unplanned readmissions
A new study out of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reveals that the preventability of readmissions changes over time: readmissions within the first week after discharge are often preventable by the hospital, whereas readmissions later are often related to patients' difficultly accessing outpatient clinics.

Read More: Hospitals News and Hospitals Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.