UK and German universities to install MEG systems

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | August 14, 2017
A magnetoencephalography (MEG) system
Two neuroscience research universities in the U.K. and one in Germany have agreed to install magnetoencephalography (MEG) systems to equip themselves with improved levels of functional brain imaging technology as part of an agreement with York Instruments.

The Universities of York and Glasgow in Britain and Germany’s University of Konstanz will install the first part of the MEGSCAN core control electronics segment of the system later this year. Once the entire system is up and running, each university will be able to measure healthy and pathological signals in the brain.

“MEG is used extensively in neuroscience research for both healthy and pathological brain measurements,” Gordon Baltzer, the CEO of York Instruments told HCB News. “These include psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and drug effects; along with other neurological diseases and conditions such as normal aging, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, migraine and pain.”
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An MEG system is a noninvasive, functional brain imaging tool that measures brain signals to show where and when activity in the brain takes place, whether a person is at rest or reacting to something, such as work, a condition of the mind or even a picture.

MEG systems differ from fMRI in that they measure electrophysiology rather than vascular activity. MEG also can record signals thousands of times per second, even during high-speed events, and at a rate that is hundreds or even thousands of times faster than those of fMRI. It also can keep track of timing and order of events, making it a useful tool for studying networks and connectivity in the brain.

The installations are part of a developmental partnership started between the universities and York Instruments in 2015. As part of the agreement, the universities will work with York to develop new, groundbreaking forms of technology. The first segment installation for each will use low-noise electronics to enhance signal-to-noise ratio during scans.

“Some of the novel features include a new type of magnetic field detector that is much more sensitive and precise than that of traditional MEG,” “More sensors to improve the localization accuracy; no reliance on expensive; dwindling and non-renewable liquid helium; faster and more powerful control electronics/software; and lower operating cost and higher uptime.”

The system is most commonly used for planning surgical procedures for people with intractable cases of epilepsy to determine where seizures are taking place and where healthy areas of the brain are, so as not to damage them during surgery.

But Baltzer says that the MEG could also be used in the future for the early diagnosis of autism as well as for traumatic brain injury.

“Objective early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is a particularly promising field for MEG,” he said. “A particular new indication for MEG that the company is focusing on is that of concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). MEG shows a clear, distinctive signature in those that are suffering the aftereffects of a blow to the head. Being able to measure this provides an objective diagnosis that is superior to psychometric testing, MRI or a CT scan. Such information will be used in head injury clinics to provide valuable diagnoses for car accident victims, soldiers returning from the battle field and especially return-to-play advice for athletes.”

MEG systems also consume less power and can be upgraded if and when future renovations are deemed necessary.

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