US Army backs 'sleeping cap' that monitors brain-cleaning fluid

Getting proper restful sleep at night is a key aspect of maintaining health. Chronically poor sleep has been linked to a number of issues, including immediate ones like slower reaction speeds and trouble concentrating, as well as long-term problems like increased risk for certain diseases. One of the key aspects of sleep is fluid that cleans waste from the brain.

Rice University's NeuroEngineering Initiative researchers are developing a special 'sleeping cap' that is designed to monitor the fluid that scrubs the brain of waste at night while asleep — and the US Army is interested in the project. According to a recent announcement from the university, the Army's Military Operational Medicine Research Program (MOMRP) has backed the research.

Alzheimer's disease may be one long-term consequence when there's a problem with the cerebrospinal fluid flow into the brain during sleep, as this 'cleaning' process rids the brain of waste, including misfolded proteins. The sleeping cap in development monitors this flow and detects when it's not happening properly.

The goal, the researchers note, is to develop a non-invasive device that can not only monitor, but also modulate the brain's 'cleaning process.' It's easy to see why the US Army would be interested in the potential development of a small, portable cap capable of monitoring and stimulating this fluid flow.

The Defense Department wants a device that soldiers can wear while asleep to ensure they're experiencing proper cerebrospinal fluid flow to the brain, the goal being an enhancement of their performance during waking hours. The researchers will develop a prototype under what is expected to be a multi-year grant from the US government.