Engineering light to monitorbrain health in babies

We’re a team of engineers, scientists and doctors at UCL who are developing a new light-based technique to help diagnose and monitor brain injury in newborn babies.

Sometimes things can go wrong during birth that cut off the blood supply to parts of a baby’s brain and stop it from working properly.

Many babies make a full recovery, but more than half will develop cerebral palsy or other brain and behavioural problems. And sadly more than one in ten will die.

Detecting and monitoring damaged brain areas is vital to help doctors treat these babies in the best way. But at the moment there’s no way to gather detailed information about brain function at the cotside in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Until now, doctors have used two or three colours of light to measure oxygen levels in the brain. But this only gives a limited view of what’s going on. Our technique uses a wider spectrum of coloured light to get a much more detailed picture of oxygen levels and energy usage inside the brain, known as metabolism.

We’ve developed a safe, non-invasive way of shining light through the brain of a newborn baby and detecting it with a sensitive digital camera. This reveals detailed information about oxygen and metabolism levels, providing vital and potentially life-saving information for doctors.

Want to learn more?

Click here to visit our UCL Research website

Or watch our film!


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