Soon, walk around freely while getting your brain scanned – Here’s how

You may soon be able to get a brain scan and move around at the same time. A lightweight, highly sensitive brain imaging device has been developed by British scientists that can be worn as a helmet, thereby allowing the patient to move about naturally.

Test results of the scanner showed that patients were able to stretch, nod, and even drink tea and play table tennis – all this while their brain activity was being recorded, millisecond by millisecond, by the magnetoencephalography (MEG) system.

Researchers said they hoped the new scanner would improve research and treatment for patients who can’t use traditional fixed MEG scanners, such as children with epilepsy, babies, or patients with disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

“This has the potential to revolutionize the brain imaging field, and transform the scientific and clinical questions that can be addressed with human brain imaging,” said Gareth Barnes, a professor at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging at University College London, who co-led the work.
They also run into difficulties when patients are unable to stay very still – very young children or patients with movement disorders for example – since even a 5-millimeter movement can mean the images are unusable.

Researchers, by using quantum sensors in the helmet scanner, overcame these issues, since these sensors are lightweight, work at room temperature and can be placed directly onto scalp – increasing the amount of signal they are able to pick up.

Matt Brookes, who worked with Barnes and built the prototype at Nottingham University, said that as well as overcoming the challenge of some patients being unable to stay still, the wearable scanner offers new possibilities in measuring peoples’ brain function during real-world tasks and 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.”


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