March 16, 2016 8:00 am
Updated: March 16, 2016 8:56 pm

Innovative concussion research could lead to new brain testing

WATCH ABOVE: The issue of concussions has been front and centre for the last few years. Now a neuroscience team out of the University of Lethbridge is taking a closer look at how we test for concussions. As Sarolta Saskiw explains, it all starts with a little urine.


LETHBRIDGE – From the professional to the junior leagues, concussions are just the reality of some sports.

However, when it comes to testing blows to the head, there are exams physicians do, but there are few ways to definitively determine if a person has experienced a concussion.

The neuroscience team at the University of Lethbridge is trying to change exactly that through a simple urine sample.

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“There’s nothing that is a definitive yes or no,” said Douglass Kiss, a neuroscience masters student. “Right now there is subjective neurological tests where a [subject] will get a battery of questions they will be asked and a few tasks [doctors] need to perform. Based off of that they get diagnosed with a concussion.”

Currently some physicians use a qEEG – an extension of an EEG – to help with diagnosing a concussion injury and its impacts on the brain.

Up to 25 per cent of a human’s energy is used up by the brain, which produces waste that the body discards. The research Kiss and his group are working on is “metabolic profiling” – analyzing the daily changes the brain goes through – by examining urine.

“A large portion of what is in your urine is coming from your brain,” he added. “A researcher can go analyze your urine and see what is being excreted and from that learn things about what’s going on in your body.”

The U of L has teamed up with the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary to get samples from young athletes who have had concussions, which can lead to long-term health issues later in life.

“They’re suffering from things such as depression, a lot of them have a higher incidence of suicide and there is also things such as Alzheimer’s that they’re suffering from,” said Kiss.

The group hopes to also translate this type of testing for other brain diseases.

“Maybe a physician can have a little device in their offices that they can use to take a drop of urine, put it into the machine for a quick, easy and cost effective diagnosis of diseases,” said Gerlinde Metz, U of L neuroscience professor.

The team also noted how the process is much less invasive than other tests, which makes getting human samples a lot easier.

The concussion research is still in its early stages, but the group hopes to make their findings public later this year.

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