MAR 28, 2018 10:03 AM PDT

A Better Way to See the Brain


When there is a complex medical concern involving the brain, imaging is crucial to getting the best possible diagnosis. While x-rays are useful if there is a skull fracture, CT scans and MRIs are needed to look at soft tissue in the brain. Other scans can measure blood flow and water movement throughout the brain, but many of these require the patient to lie inside a tiny confined space. Patients report having anxiety or discomfort when having scans, but there could be another way.

A brain scanner helmet that is worn on the head, much like a ski mask, with sensors attached uses magnetoencephalography (MEG) to record changes in electrical activity in the brain. Seeing which parts of the brain are electrically active can tell healthcare providers what's going on, but it's not a perfect system. Traditional MEG scanners are quite big, do not adjust to different sized heads and patients who have movement disorders cannot be scanned, so experts in the UK developed the helmet MEG scanner. It fits any size head, with an adjustable skull cap in which sensors are placed. The patient is out in the open, not confined and can move around, drink a cup of tea, write, read or speak. The developers, a group of scientists at University College London and the University of Nottingham, hope to use it to research epilepsy, autism and perhaps even mental illnesses.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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