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Researchers have created an innovative system called EPCC that allows the brain to work independently without relying on biological input from the rest of the body, opening new avenues for studying pure brain activity, detached from the body’s influences.

“This novel method enables research that focuses on the brain independent of the body, allowing us to answer physiological questions in a way that has never been done,” said Juan Pascual of UT Southwestern Medical Center, who led this development, in an official release.

So why is this new technology useful? According to Interesting Engineering, the brain is crucial for various physiological processes (heart rate, breathing, the sleep-wake cycle), and its performance is simultaneously subject to influences originating from the body (blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and oxygenation). The authors state that until now there has been no practical approach for separating the brain from the body to research how these factors impact brain function. Now the EPCC provides a unique chance to investigate the complexity of brain activity in a regulated, isolated setting.

According to the official release, the device functions by isolating blood flow to the brain, thereby sustaining the organ and enabling it to operate independently from the rest of the body for several hours.

Using an experimental model, researchers managed to control blood pressure, volume, temperature, oxygenation, and nutrition levels, and have utilized this technique to learn more about the impact of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in isolation from other influencing factors.

The release explains that this device can potentially improve heart-lung bypass technology by simulating natural blood flow to the brain. Regular bypass devices replicate some functions of the heart and lungs by delivering a continuous flow of oxygenated blood throughout the body. However, the new device delivers blood using a pulsative flow much like the human heart. This major difference may prevent brain-related side effects that are sometimes caused by cardiopulmonary bypass machines.