Since coming to market wearable technology has been monopolised by the likes of runners and cyclists or the gadget ‘must haves’ as a de facto status symbol.
But wearable technology has a much greater part to play in our world and has been doing so across a variety of industry and sectors, such as embedding it into a range of equipment or clothing, to gather data or create a connected workforce utilising all of the advantages of the Internet of Things.
However, wearable technology is now taking a huge leap into the field of medical science with an innovation that has the potential to revolutionise those in the field of brain imagery.
Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is an imaging technique that identifies brain activity and measures small magnetic fields produced in the brain. The scan is primarily used to produce a magnetic source image (MSI) to pinpoint the source of seizures.
MEG, which can be used in conjunction with MRI scans to get a wider assessment of brain activity, is also used in the medical field for wider detection of medical problems associated with the brain such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.
Scientists as the University of Nottingham in conjunction with University College London, have made a major breakthrough in MEG imaging by developing a prototype 3D wearable MEG scanner, with sensors that could quadruple the sensitivity of current devices.
The project, which has received funding from the Wellcome Foundation, is being lead by Dr Matthew Brookes and Professor Richard Bowtell. It has taken two years of R&D to get this stage as they initially proved the value of quantum sensors in computational simulations. The second stage of research was used to show that the improvement in sensitivity could become a reality, which has enabled further funding to establish a fully functional system using the quantum sensors.
Current MEG technology uses a static, large machine to undergo scans. The technology also needs to be at sub-zero temperatures to be effective, which brings significant limitations, especially when the likes of children or adults with Parkinson’s Disease are being scanned. The new helmet-cum-mask, will look to negate issues such as head movement when reading brain activity and aiding diagnosis of brain conditions. The sensors also work at room temperature which is has a significant benefit.
Bowtell, Director of the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre in Nottingham, said: “Because MEG systems are essentially ‘one size fits all’, sensitivity is limited for subjects with smaller heads such as infants since their heads are further from the detectors. Room temperature quantum sensors can be mounted directly on the scalp of any subject. This will give us a projected four-fold increase in sensitivity for adults, but the sensitivity could potentially be up to a 15 or 20-fold increase for children or babies.”
The project has yet to finish but it shows the importance of long-term investment and research in science and technology, in finding solutions to existing challenges.