When it comes to monitoring electrical activity in the brain, patients often have to lie very quietly inside a large brain magnetography (MEG) machine. That may soon change, however, as scientists have developed a new version of a wearable helmet that can do the same. As early as 2018, researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK revealed the original version of their “MEG helmet.”
The 3D printing device is equipped with sensors that allow it to read tiny magnetic fields generated by brain waves, just like a normal MEG machine. However, unlike in one of the cases, the wearer can move around when these readings occur. They cannot move too much because their heads must be kept between two large electromagnetic coils to eliminate interference from the Earth’s magnetic field. Despite this, they are still able to nod, stretch, drink tea and even play table tennis.
In other applications, the helmet can be ideally used in young children (they cannot stay still for long) or for seizures in patients with epilepsy. Still, one limitation of it is that it has only 13 sensors, so it can only scan a limited portion of the brain.
In contrast, the new version of the helmet is fitted with 49 magnetometer sensors. This means that it can scan the entire brain at once and is very accurate. In laboratory tests of two volunteers, it was able to monitor brain regions associated with hand movement and vision “with millimeter accuracy.”
“Our team in Nottingham, together with partners at University College London, are now pushing this research to not only have a new understanding of brain function, but also commercialize the equipment we are developing. Lead scientist Professor Matt Brookes said. “It is thought that the new scanner will not only be significantly better than any device currently present, but will also be significantly cheaper. “
Recently, a paper on the device was published in the journal NeuroImage.