June 18, 2013

Fiber-optic pen helps see inside brains of children with learning disabilities

For less than $100, University of Washington researchers have designed a computer-interfaced drawing pad that helps scientists see inside the brains of children with learning disabilities while they read and write.

The device and research using it to study the brain patterns of children will be presented June 18 at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping meeting in Seattle. A paper describing the tool, developed by the UW’s Center on Human Development and Disability, was published this spring in Sensors, an online open-access journal. “Scientists needed a tool that allows them to see in real time what a person is writing while the scanning is going on in the brain,” said Thomas Lewis, director of the center’s Instrument Development Laboratory. “We knew that fiber optics were an appropriate tool. The question was, how can you use a fiber-optic device to track handwriting?”