Scientists develop a 3D-printed prototype wearable brain scanner they say is four times as sensitive as current magnetoencephalography systems. Amy Pollock reports.
STORY: Scanners measuring magnetic fields produced by the brain could be getting a new look. Researchers from the UK's University of Nottingham have developed a wearable mask with optical sensors attached. It's a far cry from the current large fixed scanners with cryogenically-cooled sensors. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AT UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM, RICHARD BOWTELL, SAYING: "Our long-term goal is to make a system which has as many sensors as the conventional MEG system, but which someone can wear and walk around in." The team says the device can assess brain areas with abnormal electrical activity in epileptic patients, like current scanners do. But they also hope it will be used to assess disorders like schizophrenia that are marked by abormal brain connections. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AT UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM, RICHARD BOWTELL, SAYING: "It's been shown that there are sort of abnormalities in the connections between different brain areas and you can assess that by looking at how the signal on one side of the brain changes in time, whether it's synchronised with changes on the other side of the brain." Its potential for use on children also excites researchers, who think it could chart changes in electrical activity in the brain from infancy to adolescence. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AT UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM, RICHARD BOWTELL, SAYING: "You can't really use the standard magnetoencephalography system with small children because it's not such a friendly environment, and also their heads are smaller and therefore they're not so close to the detectors over the whole surface of the head, whereas the new system, we can bring the sensors in much closer. The old system is a sort of one-size-fits-all, whereas the new system we can tailor the position of the sensors to the particular person's head." The scanner is currently a 3D printed prototype.