Source: Wellcome Trust
Summary: Researchers have developed a new generation of brain scanner, that can be worn like a helmet allowing patients to move naturally whilst being scanned.
Brain cells operate and communicate by producing electrical currents. These currents generate tiny magnetic fields that are detected outside the head. Researchers use MEG (magnetoencephalography) to map brain function by measuring these magnetic fields. This allows for a millisecond-by-millisecond picture of which parts of the brain are engaged when we undertake different tasks, such as speaking or moving. Researchers from the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre, University of Nottingham and the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, UCL have developed a new generation of brain scanner, that can be worn like a helmet allowing patients to move naturally whilst being scanned. It is also more sensitive than currently available systems. The findings were published in the journal Nature.
The light-weight nature of the new scanner also means that, for the first time, subjects can move their heads during the scanning. The scanner is based around helmets that can be made to fit anyone who needs to be scanned. Following the success of their prototype system, the researchers are now working towards new styles of helmet, which will have the appearance of a bicycle helmet, that will be suitable for babies and children as well as adults. The researchers predict this new type of scanner will provide a four-fold increase in sensitivity in adults, potentially increasing to 15 or 20-fold with infants. This new technology raises exciting new opportunities for a new generation of functional brain imaging.
Wellcome’s Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Andrew Welchman said, “This new scanner is exciting not only because it overcomes those issues and will help improve our understanding of how the brain works but also because it has huge potential for clinical use. This could lead to better care for patients, such as young children and people with epilepsy where current options are severely limited and very invasive.”
More Information: Elena Boto et al, “Moving magnetoencephalography towards real-world applications with a wearable system”, Nature (2018).