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Current Cooling Devices Ineffective in Preventing Brain Injury

ally slowing the reactions that cause permanent injury in patients with stroke and other head trauma. Attempts to create this effect in animals were successful enough to inspire efforts to adapt the approach for human trials.

"The problem has been that we have no idea what the temperature of the human brain is and no way to measure it short of surgery, which just isn't the same as measuring temperature in an intact brain," explains Yablonskiy, who is also an adjunct professor of physics in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Alex Sukstanskii, Ph.D., a senior research scientist in Yablonskiy's lab, used mathematics and physics to develop a theory of how far cold would penetrate into the brain. Sukstanskii and his colleagues hypothesized that the hair, skin, bone and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain would not substantially impede the penetration of cold. But they thought the tremendous volumes of blood flowing through the brain would prove much more resistant. While the brain only accounts for about 2 percent of the body's mass, it uses 20 percent of the total oxygen intake, all of which is delivered by blood flow.

The chemical reactions between brain cells that underlie thought are also significant generators of heat. Yablonskiy has previously speculated that blood flow may increase to active areas of the brain in part to carry away that heat.

Sukstanskii's theory, published in 2004, suggested that the distance to which cold could reach into the brain, which they called the characteristic length, dropped off as the amount of blood flowing in the brain increased.

"Mathematically speaking, the characteristic length is inversely proportional to the square root of blood flow," Yablonskiy says.

To validate the theory, lead author Mingming Zhu, a graduate research assistant, inserted tiny temperature-measuring devices known as thermocouples into rat brains and measured brain tissue temperature at vario
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