Researchers from the University of Nottingham, have come up with a state-of-the-art brain scanner, which patients can wear like a hat. This exciting latest tech device, which will give mental health medics an understanding what is going on in the entire brain region with millimeter accuracy, is a huge step up for those fighting mental health.
As the journal, Neuroimage, notes stemming from previous research in 2018, this latest innovation offers “a fully functional 49 channel device that can be used to scan the whole brain, and track electrophysiological processes that are implicated in a number of mental health problems.” The study lead, Professor Matt Brookes, made the very valid point that understanding mental illness remains one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. From childhood illnesses such as Autism, to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, human brain health affects millions of people throughout their lifespan.
In many cases, even highly detailed brain images showing what the brain looks like fail to tell us about underlying pathology, and consequently there is an urgent need for new technologies to measure what the brain actually does in health and disease. This is exactly why so many mental health patients get let down, and continue to suffer in their lives, often with their families and loved ones not knowing where to turn, to try to ameliorate the situation, and help the sufferer turn his/her life around.
The Science Behind It
Unlike the large cumbersome scanners where patients must remain very still, the wearable scanner allows the patient to move freely
The cells in our brain communicate and operate by generating electrical currents. The latter produce miniscule magnetic fields which certain equipment can show outside our heads. MEG (Magnetoencephalography) brain imaging, was utilized by the scientists to measure these magnetic fields, and thus, map out different individuals’ brain functioning. This technique provides a millisecond-by-millisecond image of the parts of the brain which get involved whenever we take on a certain task, such as moving or speaking.
The research author, Ryan Hill, stated “Although there is exciting potential, OPM-MEG is a nascent technology with significant development still required. Whilst multi-channel systems are available, most demonstrations still employ small numbers of sensors sited over specific brain regions and the introduction of a whole-head array is an important step forward in moving this technology towards effective commercial application.”
This breakthrough opens up a whole host of new possibilities. For example, it could be excellent for using on epileptic patients who are in the middle of a seizure, as it will help their doctors comprehend the abnormal activity which brings it on. Further, it could be used to scan children, who have a difficult time staying still.