When it comes to monitoring electrical activity in the brain, patients typically have to lie very still inside a large magnetoencephalography (MEG) machine. That could be about to change, though, as scientists have developed a new version of a wearable helmet that does the same job.
Back in 2018, researchers at Britain’s University of Nottingham revealed the original version of their “MEG helmet.”
The 3D-printed device was fitted with multiple sensors that allowed it to read the tiny magnetic fields created by brain waves, just like a regular MEG machine. Unlike the case with one of those, however, wearers could move around as those readings were taking place.
They couldn’t move too much, as their head had to remain between two large electromagnetic coils that cancelled out interference from the Earth’s magnetic field. Nonetheless, they were still able to perform activities such as nodding, stretching, drinking tea and even playing table tennis.
Among other applications, the helmet could be ideal for use on young children (who can’t keep still for very long), or on epileptic patients who were experiencing seizures. That said, one of its limitations was the fact that it had just 13 sensors, so it could only scan limited sections of the brain.
By contrast, the new version of the helmet packs in 49 magnetometer sensors. This means that it’s capable of scanning the entire brain all at once, and very precisely. In lab tests conducted on two volunteers, it was able to monitor the brain regions associated with hand movement and vision “with millimeter accuracy.”
“Our group in Nottingham, alongside partners at UCL [University College London], are now driving this research forward, not only to develop a new understanding of brain function, but also to commercialize the equipment that we have developed,” says the lead scientist, Prof. Matt Brookes. “It is thought that not only will the new scanner be significantly better than anything that currently exists, but also that it will be significantly cheaper.”
A paper on the device – which was built by UK company Added Scientific – was recently published in the journal NeuroImage.
Source: University of Nottingham
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