It's not only ironic, it's a bit unsettling. Diseases that will afflict us the rest of our lives may soon be diagnosed in less than a minute. In the time it takes to pitch you the latest microwave meal on television, doctors will be able to tell you that you have Alzheimer's - or multiple sclerosis, or schizophrenia.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota are studying a new imaging technology capable of high-speed analysis. The magnetoencephalography (MEG) uses 248 sensors to record the interaction betweens pairs of neurons within the brain. The scientists have discovered that the tiny electrical charges released by the neuron pairs are different in healthy brains and in brains affected by disease.
The sensitivity of the MEG allows these differences to be detected for the first time. Though in its early stages, Professor Apostolos P. Georgopoulos is hopeful that further tests will allow the diagnostic tool to be used in everyday practice: "We want to continue and acquire data from a large number of subjects - patients and matched controls. The throughput of this MEG test is large so we can continue a high rate of testing and we hope that clinical applications can become a reality in a year or two."
This is certainly good news. Early and accurate diagnosis means more effective intervention and better outcomes. In the meantime, it's a good reminder that life comes at you fast. Make every minute count...
To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about neurological disorders, see this from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.