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Research institute hopes to send "brain breathalyzer" into space


While it's not nearly exciting as their Space Cycle (but really, what is?), the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's new brain scanner here looks to fill in a niche of its own nonetheless and, if the institute has its way, it could actually find its way into space. Described as a "brain breathalyzer," the device promises to monitor astronauts for signs of brain injury, depression and mental fatigue, which could allow mission control to determine if they're capable of carrying out a mission or not. That's done with the use of an optical scanner that sends weak pulses of near-infrared light into the brain, which gets reflected back to determine the amount of oxygen in the blood. While NASA isn't fully sold on the idea just yet, it apparently is interested enough to shell out $400,000 to further the development of the scanner, which it hopes will also eventually be able to monitor other vital signs like blood pressure and heart rate.

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