More and more news stories, including this one in our Good Morning Newspaper about a local teen who suffered a concussion during flag football practice, or this topics page at The New York Times on head injuries, are focusing on what we don't know about how the brain is affected upon impact.
Three UAA professors are co-principal investigators on a research project to develop a "smart" mouthpiece that can accurately measure skull acceleration from impact.
The video above demonstrates testing on the first generation device developed at UAA. A seasoned soccer player "heads" the ball as the device records impact.
The team is already testing their second-gen mouthguard, which is more streamlined with data recorder and transmitter external to the device. That blue scrawl on the white board behind the young man pictured below is the mathematical calculations the research team uses to derive "angular" acceleration from "linear" acceleration the that the device records.
To understand the difference between those two, think of a glass of iced tea. Push the glass side to side and ice and liquid move with the glass. That’s linear movement. Spin the glass, and the ice and liquid stay immobile while the glass moves around them. That’s angular movement. Both are important to accurately detect and record.
This kind of research at UAA is documented on a UAA blog called INNOVATE. All the projects on this particular blog have received some start-up funding from the UAA INNOVATE fund, designed to stimulate campus research that may lead to patented devices or processes, or peer-review publication.
Other topics on the blog have included the therapeutic value of Alaska blueberries, testing to find out if spruce bark beetle-killed trees could manufactured into a wood-plastic composite suitable for building in the north.
There's even a post about a new novel by Alaska writer Don Rearden, a UAA professor researching a novel about whales that traverses the three great epochs of Alaska whaling history – pre-contact, commercial whaling of the 1800s, and modern-day subsistence whaling under the governance of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.