Understanding the human brain remains one of the greatest challenges for 21st century science. Whilst developing technologies like MRI enable images of the brain to be generated with ever increasing detail, nascent research suggests that if we are to truly get to grips with many of the brain disorders – such as severe mental health problems – that plague our society, then we must move beyond structural imaging and gain insight into brain function (i.e. what are the cells in our brains actually doing as we attempt mental tasks).
The human brain is, in essence, a giant electrical circuit and all of our actions, senses, thoughts and feelings are controlled by the passage of small electrical currents through brain cells known as neurons. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a functional imaging technique that enables a unique window on this electrical activity via non-invasive measurement of the magnetic fields that brain currents generate. By measuring these magnetic fields, and reconstructing the underlying current densities, MEG allows direct imaging of brain networks as they form and dissolve in support of cognition. MEG is an exceptionally powerful technique but conventional systems are plagued with problems; they are large, heavy and extremely expensive, they cannot be used to scan infants and they reply on patients keeping extremely still during a scan.
Hear from Professor Matthew Brookes and Dr Elena Boto from University of Nottingham
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