New "Mind Machine" helps patients with everything from autism to ptsd.
POSTED: Friday, February 13, 2009 - 8:10pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 10:39am
UNDATED - The mind machine: you could say it can read your thoughts.
And what scientists learn, could be a key in curing brain disorders.
Home from war, nearly one in five soldiers lives with post traumatic stress disorder.
Like Vietnam vet Andy Michnowski.
"Couple guys. A truck blew up, they got hurt," said Michnowksi.
At home in Elgin, Illinois, 14 year old Jamie Turner has lived with autism spectrum disorder since he was a toddler.
But this war veteran, and this fourteen year old boy share one essential experience.
Their struggles both start with the mysteries of the brain.
"This machine is basically a big magnetic stethoscope," said neuroscientist Jeffrey Lewine, Ph.D.
You could call Lewine's mind machine the scientific name is so long, it's shortened to m-e-g.
"This machine lets us measure those very weak magnetic signals generated by the brain's electrical activity," said Lewine.
This research at Alexian Brothers Hospital, may eventually help doctors treat everything from autism, to the panics of ptsd.
"If I see something on the road, either I accelerate as fast as I could figuring if it's a mine and it explodes, hopefully I won't catch all the shrapnel. Those kinds of things," Michnowski said.
Like power lines, your brain cells release electricity when you're thinking.
That electricity creates distinctive magnetic fields.
It's the brain's magnetic fields that researchers are measuring in Jamie, as his brain processes a series of sounds.
Lewine says Jamie’s measurements are distinctively different from teens without autism,
And that may someday mean diagnosis and treatment of the condition far earlier than is now possible.
In cases of ptsd, the brain's reaction may indicate one medication is better than another.
"If we can better understand what's gone wrong, we may be able to develop better therapies," Lewine said.
So as Jamie Turner improves, and Andy Michnowski relives his war,
the hope is that their contributions to the meg machine will someday help others, like them.