In what they claim is a world-first, University of Adelaide researchers have created a fiber optic probe that can reach deep into the brain to capture images and measure temperature. It's been developed to learn more about hyperthermia associated with drug use, and may lead to new understanding of drug toxicology.

"Using some drugs such as ecstasy can make certain brain regions overheat and then become damaged," says Dr Jiawen Li of the Adelaide Medical School. The probe would let clinicians to see inside the brain, helping them guide the probe to the affected region. The probe's thermometer would then let them track temperature changes in that part of the brain.

"With an outer diameter of only 130 microns, the probe is as thin as a single strand of human hair," Dr Li explains. "This means it can be delivered deep inside the body in a minimally invasive way. It also allows us to see and record physiological data in real time that we weren't able to access before."

The researchers hope this will help them learn more about how hyperthermia develops as well as test potential treatments. They say the technology also has potential benefits for other parts of the body, including improving the thermal treatment of cancer. Though measurements are currently limited to temperature, it's hoped future improvements could allow pH, oxygen saturation and fat accumulation to be measured.

The research has been published in Optics Letters.