Hitachi Ltd and Hitachi Kokusai Denki Engineering Co Ltd will release a wearable encephalometer (a device to monitor a brain) using far-red light in July 2010.
The companies expect to sell the encephalometer as a non-pharmaceutical product for applications such as brain researches at research institutes and neuromarketing. Though there is no manufacturer's suggested retail price, its price is expected to be ¥10 million (approx US$107,147).
Because far-red light is directed at the forehead, the prefrontal area of a brain is monitored. By using multiple encephalometers, it is possible to measure the brain activities of four subjects at the same time.
The new encephalometer was developed based on the "optical topography method (NIRS: near infrared spectroscopy)," a brain monitoring method that Hitachi developed in 1995. Far-red light passes through a skull, etc and is scattered and reflected inside the brain. By measuring the degrees of the scattering and reflection, the encephalometer estimates the change in blood flow inside the brain. Specifically, it monitors hemoglobins.
Hitachi Medical Corp of the Hitachi Group is selling NIRS equipment for medical purposes, but it is relatively large. This time, Hitachi and Hitachi Kokusai Denki realized the small encephalometer by placing far-red light semiconductor laser elements (for two wavelengths) in one package, eliminating the need for optical fibers, which are required for the medical NIRS equipment.
The wavelengths are 705 and 830nm. The encephalometer has eight irradiation parts, eight light-receiving parts and 22 channels.
The encephalometer consists of a headset, a control box to record data and a controller to show measured results in real time. The weights of the headset and the control box, which are connected by a signal wire, are 700g and 650g, respectively.
With a built-in battery, the encephalometer can be continuously used for about two hours. The controller is connected via wireless LAN.