Measuring Brain Stiffness

Measuring Brain Stiffness

The primary treatment for hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in the cavities of the brain) is a shunt, which is not always successful and often requires patients to undergo many surgeries over their lifetime. The long-term effects on the brain of treating hydrocephalus with a shunt and its impact on a patient’s prognosis are not well understood.

Mark E. Wagshul, Ph.D., and colleagues used magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), a novel method to virtually "palpate" any tissue within the body, to compare the stiffness of the brains of patients with and without hydrocephalus. In a study published online on February 2 in NeuroImage: Clinical, the researchers show that the brain of hydrocephalus patients who receive shunts is softer compared to the healthy brain, and importantly, that brain stiffness in hydrocephalus patients with shunts is associated with health-related quality of life. The study’s findings provide a new window into the hydrocephalus brain and suggest that MRE can now be used to study how brain stiffness changes over time, what happens at the time of a shunt failure, and to monitor the effect of therapies that could either replace or supplement shunting.

Dr. Wagshul is associate professor of radiology and of physiology & biophysics at Einstein.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine has an issued patent related to this research and is seeking licensing partners able to further develop and commercialize this technology. Interested parties can contact the Office of Biotechnology and Business Development at biotech@einteinmed.org.