AN INNOVATIVE scanner that enables brain activity to be measured during natural movements has been developed by researchers from the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, and University College London, London, UK. It is hoped that the technology will not only improve understanding of brain functions but also lead to enhanced care for patients who cannot use traditional fixed scanners, such as those with neurodegenerative conditions.
The new magnetoencephalography (MEG) device comes in the form of a 3D-printed prototype helmet that can be made to fit on the head of anyone who needs to be scanned. The scanner utilises lightweight quantum sensors that are mounted in the helmet that can be placed directly onto the scalp surface, enabling them to pick up a high level of electromagnetic signals from the brain. The creation of special electromagnetic coils worked to reduce the Earth’s magnetic field around the scanners.
The scanner holds a number of advantages over current MEG scanners, which are very large and heavy, and the patient must remain completely still during scanning for the images to be useable. This means changes in brain magnetic fields during movement are not picked up and, additionally, it is difficult to accurately measure people who struggle to stay still for long periods such as young children and patients with neurodegenerative disorders.
As a result, the team believe the new technology will increase sensitivity four-fold in adults, and up to 15 or 20-fold in infants. This should help improve knowledge of brain function and ultimately treatments for a number of neurological conditions.
Dr Matt Brookes, University of Nottingham, commented: “This new technology raises exciting new opportunities for a new generation of functional brain imaging. Being able to scan individuals whilst they move around offers new possibilities, for example to measure brain function during real-world tasks or genuine social interactions. This has significant potential for impact on our understanding of not only healthy brain function but also on a range of neurological, neurodegenerative, and mental health conditions.”
The researchers are now seeking to create new helmet types that are suitable for children and babies.
James Coker, Reporter
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