MEG-MRI device maps brain activity in epilepsy patients

Researchers have developed a more accurate device for mapping the human brain’s electrical activity in patients suffering with epilepsy.

According to a statement, the device — developed by a team from Aalto University in Finland — incorporates whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology for the first time.

MEG measures the electrical function and MRI visualises the structure of the brain. The researchers claim that the merging of these two technologies will produce unprecedented accuracy in locating brain electrical activity non-invasively.

‘We expect that the new technology will improve the accuracy of brain mapping of patients with epilepsy,’ said Prof Risto Ilmoniemi of Aalto University. ‘It may also improve the diagnosis of cancer patients because the improved image contrast may facilitate the characterisation of cancer tissue.’

The MEG-MRI device will allow brain imaging for a new set of patients, such as those with metal implants.

Meanwhile, the device’s silent running and open atmosphere means that patients being tested should not feel scared or claustrophobic compared with entering an MRI machine for scanning.

Ilmoniemi claims that this latest development also has the potential to reduce costs as images can be obtained in one session rather than two.

The problem with MEG is that when the technique is used separately, the image accuracy can be compromised because of the movement of the brain. Also, the image it provides may not be accurate enough for precise brain surgery.

In the past, it was not possible to combine high-field MRI and MEG because their magnetic fields interfered with one another. Extremely sensitive magnetic field sensors have now been developed, so scientists can use the new low-field MRI with a magnetic field strength of only a few hundred-thousandths of that of the high-field MRI device.

The project is co-ordinated by Aalto University and includes 13 research groups from five countries. The research project is part of the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme.