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Finnish workers combine MEG and MRI to map the brain
Researchers in Finland have developed the world’s first device for mapping the human brain that combines magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
MEG measures magnetic fields produced by electrical activity and MRI measures the structural function of the brain. Scientists hope that combining these two technologies could help produce greater accuracy in locating electrical activity within the brain.
‘We expect that the new technology will improve the accuracy of brain mapping of patients with epilepsy,’ says Professor Risto Ilmoniemi at Aalto University in Finland. ‘It may also improve the diagnosis of cancer patients because the improved image contrast may facilitate the characterisation of cancer tissue.
Less claustrophobic scanning device
‘The innovative MEG-MRI device will allow brain imaging for new patients, such as those with metal implants. Also the silent and open device will not scare children or make people feel claustrophobic. In the future this development can also reduce costs as images can be obtained in one session rather than two.’
It has previously been impossible to combine the two technologies as their magnetic fields interfered with one another. However, the Finnish scientists can now use new low-field MRI with a magnetic field strength of only a few hundred thousandths of that of the high-field MRI.
Dr Fergus Rugg-Gunn, consultant neurologist at Epilepsy Society and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, explained further: ‘MEG is one of the investigations that we use routinely in patients who are being considered for epilepsy surgery. It provides useful information on where a patient’s seizures start and can improve the chance of a patient being free of their seizures after surgery.
Influencing outcome of epilepsy surgery
‘One of the limitations of MEG at the present time is the reliance on accurate matching of brain structures between the MEG recording and the MRI brain scan. Any inaccuracies may make surgery less likely to be successful.
‘This new technology from Finland provides a new solution to this problem and, as such, is an exciting development. One concern with the new combined MEG/MRI system is whether the quality of either the MEG recording or the MRI brain scan is compromised and it will be interesting to see the first results from this new technology when it is used for patients with epilepsy.’
The Finnish project includes 13 research groups from five different countries and is part of the European Commission Seventh Framework Program.
How MEG works
Dr Fergus Rugg-Gunn explains how magnetoencephalography works in our magazine Epilepsy Review.