Ultrasound imaging

With a simple device, scientists observe blood flow in mouse brains in 3D

Scientists from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Erasmus MC have succeeded in visualizing the blood flow in mouse brains in three dimensions using a relatively simple and inexpensive ultrasound device they developed themselves. The team presents their findings in Science Advances.

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Illustration, not actual bloodflow

The more active brain cells are, the more blood they require. For neuroscientists and neurosurgeons, blood flow in the brain is crucial information. It allows them to observe which parts of the brain are active during specific tasks and, in the case of surgery, which areas should not be removed. Thanks to a research team from Erasmus MC and TU Delft, three-dimensional recordings are now within reach. They have successfully captured blood flow in mouse brains using ultrasound imaging, as reported in the scientific journal Science Advances.


The team, led by researcher Dr. Ir. Pieter Kruizinga, utilized a device they demonstrated in 2017 can be used for three-dimensional ultrasound recordings, originally of two letters in water. After six years and numerous modifications by Dr. Michael Brown, the device is now suitable for capturing blood flow in mouse brains. Kruizinga and Brown are proud, noting that the transition to brains was not without challenges: ‘We have a whole graveyard of non-working prototypes here.’

The uniqueness of the device lies in its use of only 64 sensors, as opposed to the thousands typically needed for a 3D recording. This is made possible by a plastic attachment for the ultrasound head with a complex pattern. The attachment ensures that the ultrasound waves are scattered in a unique way. A powerful computer then constructs a three-dimensional image. Brown explains: ‘Our device doesn’t require complex large hardware. We essentially made an important step towards a wearable and affordable brain scanner.’

While the mouse scanner is already valuable for fundamental neuroscientists, the researchers aim to take it a step further. ‘We want to adapt the equipment for human brains. Our future dream is to monitor blood flow live in the brain during surgery’, Kruizinga states.

Pieter Kruizinga and Michael Brown are affiliated with CUBE, the first dedicated ultrasound brain imaging center in the world and a multidisciplinary ensemble of Erasmus MC, TU Delft, and the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience.

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