New Imaging Bike Helmet Records Brain Activity Like Never Before

Okay, so it’s not a real bike helmet.

Scientists in Europe have found a way to combine MRI and MEG scans together to measure brain activity in real time, and it just looks like a bike helmet.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for structure, measuring blood flow and oxygenation levels.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) scans for activity as brain cells fire a message.

This is an incredible breakthrough because it can help doctors understand what is exactly happening in the brain. It could be helpful for patients with epilepsy, help during brain surgery, and visualizing specific areas for research.

In the past, doctors used functional MRI (fMRI) scans which measures brain activity using recorded changes in blood flow. The combination of MRI and MEG is a step up from this strategy because the changes in blood flow is too slow to get a really accurate reading.

Also, most measurements are taken at separate times, putting the patient in a different situation, so the researcher cannot be positive that the two readings are coherent.

By combining the two scans into one, cohesive unit:

  • The doctors can save money on equipment
  • The patients can save money on scans
  • The technology can be more widely available
  • MEG (which is severely underutilized) scans can become more widespread

Some further research to be done with this technology can help patients with depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia.

Gregory Miller, the University College California – Los Angeles’ clinical psychologist, says, “It’s been common to assume that a scientist has to choose which type of imaging method is best, but that’s like trying to decide whether a hammer or chisel is better. For some jobs, one is clearly better. For other jobs, you need both.”