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Game Changer! Revolutionary New Brain Scanner ‘Most Exciting Invention Since MRI’

By Belal Awad · July 29, 2023

Child wearing magnetoencephalography helmet.  University of Nottingham

A new brain scanner developed at Nottingham University is being hailed as the most exciting advancement in the field since the MRI. The Optically Pumped magnetoencephalography unit, or MEG is expected to revolutionize the way we understand and treat neurological conditions.

The MEG scanner uses gaseous atoms as sensitive magnetic field probes, which are then read by laser light. The process allows the analysis of the tiny magnetic fields generated by brain activity, providing a noninvasive tool to study epilepsy and other brain activities. Unlike traditional scanners, MEG measures brain function rather than structure, offering detailed insight into what our cells are doing moment to moment.

Post-doctoral Epilepsy Researcher Zelekha Seedat told Channel 4, “We’ll be able to see if [epilepsy] is coming from more than one region in the brain. Together with things like artificial intelligence to do the data analysis, we can then tell which part of the brain leads,” referring to the part of the brain where the epileptic fit originates. The MEG scanner has been tested on healthy children and adults. The results have been so impressive that trials on children with epilepsy are set to begin this summer. The device is also being tested at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children in an effort to identify brain changes in autism.

One of the MEG scanner’s major advantages is its adaptability. The device can be fitted to the heads of young children, allowing them to be awake and mobile during the scan. Old-generation Electroencephalogram (EEG) brain scans require probes to be attached to the patient’s head with glue.

Professor Matt Brookes, who leads MEG research at Nottingham University said, “Our brains are electrical. They communicate by sending tiny little electrical currents through the brain or through the central nervous system. Those little electrical currents generate magnetic fields. What we’re doing is detecting those magnetic fields outside the head.”

This new technology holds promise not just for detecting epilepsy in children, but for examining a wide range of neurological conditions, including concussion, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.