Tiny new sensor could simplify brain wave research

Two years ago, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S. developed a tiny magnetic sensor that could detect the human heartbeat without touching the subject's skin. Now, the same team has improved the sensitivity of the device tenfold, making it capable of measuring human brain activity and becoming almost as sensitive - but much cheaper and easier to operate - than the best magnetometers available today.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a noninvasive procedure that measures the magnetic fields generated by the brain. This helps neuroscientists understand perceptual and cognitive processes, map cerebral activity to help identify tumors in preparation for surgery, or even create better brain-computer interfaces.

"Our sensors can be fabricated in parallel with techniques usually adopted for microelectronics," says Kitching. "Moreover, while SQUID-based imaging systems require a large magnetically-shielded room to operate, an imaging system based on our sensors could probably be operating in a much smaller (person-sized) shielded enclosure. These advantages will almost certainly make a potential imaging system less expensive to manufacture."

Source: gizmag.comAdded: 6 June 2012

Tags: healthcare