Brain researchers receive a Christmas gift: New MEG device enables more accurate measurements and recycling of helium

The previous MEG device served researchers for over 20 years.
Measurements can be made with an accuracy of milliseconds i.e. one thousandths of a second, Veikko Jousmäki tells. Photo: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University

In mid-November, a long-awaited delivery arrived at the MEG Core laboratory in the Otaniemi campus of Aalto University.

‘We are happy to open our Christmas present a little early’, says Senior Scientist Veikko Jousmäki, director of the Aalto NeuroImaging research infrastructure.

The boxes contained a next-generation magnetoencephalography (MEG) device. It measures the magnetic fields generated by the electrical activity of the brain. In other words, it measures the information processing in the brain. Measurements can be made with an accuracy of milliseconds i.e. one thousandths of a second. 

The device has been approved for clinical use. In Aalto University, it will be used, e,g., to investigate how hearing, seeing, and touch are processed in healthy test subjects.

In hospitals, similar devices are used, e.g., for epilepsy diagnostics and preoperative evaluations to locate functional landmarks. The research results at Aalto University can also be utilised in clinical work. Research groups are in particularly close cooperation with researchers from the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital.

‘The new MEG device enables more accurate and versatile measurements. It is also less susceptible to interference’, Jousmäki says.

Huone, jossa heliumia kierrätetään
The internal liquid helium recycling eliminates the need to purchase helium separately, which is also important for sustainable development. Photo: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University

Finnish know-how

The development of MEG technology began in the Low Temperature Laboratory of the Helsinki University of Technology. This research also led to the founding of the MEG vendor Neuromag Oy, known today as MEGIN Oy.

The first whole-head MEG device was introduced in the Brain Research Unit of the Low Temperature Laboratory in 1993. The MEG device was upgraded to a newer version in 1998 and the next minor update took place in 2008. MEG Core, which is a part of the Aalto NeuroImaging research infrastructure, continues this research tradition at Aalto University.

MEGIN Oy, the supplier of the new device, is the market leader in its field, having manufactured about half of the roughly two hundred MEG devices currently in use around the world.

In addition to improved sensors, the device also has better usability. The internal liquid helium recycling eliminates the need to purchase helium separately, which is also important for sustainable development.

Aalto NeuroImaging is one of Aalto University's major research infrastructures. Aalto NeuroImaging works on the principles of open access in teaching and research. MEG Core also participates in the training of new MEG users together with MEGIN Oy.

Aalto NeuroImaging is included in the Academy of Finland’s roadmap of national research infrastructures 2021–2024 as part of the Euro-BioImaging Finland consortium. MEG Core will open up MEG technology for wider use through the pan-European Euro-Bioimaging infrastructure.

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