Brain simulation reveals benefits of emergency cooling treatment

Brain simulation reveals benefits of emergency cooling treatment


Monday, 28 May, 2018

A new study co-led by Professor Ian Marshall (Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences) has provided new insights into how the brain responds to medically induced cooling and could inform treatments for head injuries and conditions such as stroke. 

The study, which was carried out in 3D simulations and was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, found that lowering the brain temperature after head injury or stroke helps relieve pressure inside the head to avert swelling and further injury, especially in critical cases. 

Researchers examined in greater detail than ever before how lowering scalp temperature impacts on blood vessels and tissue throughout the brain. The model is the first to take into account simultaneous flow, heat transfer and metabolism between arteries, veins and brain tissue in three dimensions throughout the organ. 

Using computer simulations, researchers found that cooling the heads of newborn babies to 10C would enable their core brain temperature to fall from a normal level of 37C to below 36C – which is recognised as low enough to aid recovery. This could dramatically help babies at risk of long-term damage from birth complications, without having to cool their entire body. 

Furthermore, researchers who developed the latest model say it could be modified to mimic the effects of stroke in the brain, or the impact of administering drugs, and could help develop and test therapeutic cooling techniques and inform sophisticated clinical trials. 


Dr Prashant Valluri, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Engineering, who led the study, said: "Our sophisticated model should enable speedy progress in developing optimum treatments involving brain cooling, and support the development of studies on brain health."

Professor Ian Marshall said: “Getting vital patient information such as core brain temperature is a challenge and is only currently possible through expensive MRI scans. A robust model which can predict temperature and blood flow is therefore the need of the hour.”