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Printy and the Brain

Play Ping Pong While Wearing a 3D Printed Brain Scanner?

Picture of Hanna Watkin
by Hanna Watkin
Mar 26, 2018
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Researchers from the UK developed a revolutionary 3D printed brain scanner which is effective even when a patient is moving — whether the movement is as simple as nodding their head or as active as playing ping-pong. 

Having your brain scanned is time-consuming and unpleasant to say the least. For them to work properly, you have to stay completely still. Current magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanners require a patient to move as little as 5mm.

You certainly couldn’t drink a cup of tea or play a round of ping-pong while undergoing a MEG scan. Or could you?

A team of researchers from the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre at the University of Nottingham and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London (UCL) have developed a revolutionary new brain scanner which is wearable and still effective even if the patient moves. Stretching your legs or nodding during a brain scan are no longer off limits.

The lightweight 3D printed brain scanner looks a lot like a helmet which also covers your face. This MEG scanner even claims to be more sensitive than current available systems.

“This has the potential to revolutionise the brain imaging field, and transform the scientific and clinical questions that can be addressed with human brain imaging,” said Professor Gareth Barnes, who leads the project at the UCL Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging.

Have a Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down Wearing MEG Brain Scanner

Although it would be great to be able to have your brain scan not disrupt your morning coffee with friends, the real reason for the development of MEG was for patients who can’t use traditional scanners.

For example, patients with neurodegenerative disorders, children with epilepsy, or babies. To ensure an accurate scan, the researchers can create a custom helmet to fit any patient.

“Importantly, we will now be able to study brain function in many people who, up until now, have been extremely difficult to scan – including young children and patients with movement disorders,” continues Barnes.

“This will help us better understand healthy brain development in children, as well as the management of neurological and mental health disorders.”

There are many clever enhancements in the new MEG scanner. For example, current MEG scanners need to cooling to -269C. The researchers scaled down the technology and designed the helmet to use ‘quantum’ sensors.

These can be mounted to a 3D printed helmet as they are lightweight and can work at room temperature. As the helmet is very close to the brain, the sensors also can pick up a better signal.

As well as this, current scanners are used in a special room to shield them from the Earth’s magnetic field. However, the researchers use electromagnetic coils to reduce the effects of the field on the scanner by a factor of around 50,000.

Find out more about how the scanner works in the paper published in the journal Nature.

Source: UCL News

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License: The text of "Play Ping Pong While Wearing a 3D Printed Brain Scanner?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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