Patients are being offered personal brain scans to assess cognitive health using magnetoencephalography, which measures electrical signals
“A better understanding of subtle functional changes in the brain, detected only by MEG imaging, will ideally improve how we protect and manage our brain health.” Dr Emer MacSweeney, CEO, Re:Cognition Health and consultant neuroradiologist
Patients at a London clinic are to be offered non-invasive brain scans that can provide a detailed map of brain activity.
The technology, known as magnetoencephalography (MEG), measures electrical signals between neurons in order to create the map. It is being offered by a private clinic called Re:Cognition Health in partnership with MEG supplier MYndspan.
As well as being offered the scan, patients will carry out app-based games to test their cognitive function. Within 24 hours of their appointment, patients will receive a personalised report into their brain health which can help them make data-led decisions about their lifestyles, such as sleep habits, exercise and diet.
Patients with cognitive health conditions, such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s will be able to access detailed data about their brain health and whether it is improving in response to treatment.
Dr Emer MacSweeney, CEO of Re:Cognition Health Ltd and consultant neuroradiologist, said: “MYndspan’s data-driven quantification of brain health using MEG technology is ground-breaking. Our brain and mind experts at Re:Cognition Health are confident MYndspan’s data-led insights will not only help to inform the care we provide for our patients, but also empower individuals with their own data.
“A better understanding of subtle functional changes in the brain, detected only by MEG imaging, will ideally improve how we protect and manage our brain health.”
Caitlin Baltzer, co-founder and COO of MYndspan, said that the collaboration would “enable an exchange of our services to both our customers, meaning that MYndspan’s customers will also have access to a clinical neurological pathway should they need one.”
MEG – described by MYndspan as a “super sensitive sensor of magnetic fields” – works very differently from MRI scans. MYndspan’s website describes the experience as similar to sitting in an old-fashioned hairdryer. The technology doesn’t require injections and does not expose the patient to radiation.
Patients attending a MYndspan appointment spend 20 minutes answering background questions (such as age and sex) and performing “gamified” tasks that measure cognitive functions such as short-term memory, visuospatial skills and attention. After this, patients spend 10 minutes in which a 3D digital image of their head is taken, and then they are placed in the scanner for another 10 minutes while their brain is scanned.
Magnetoencephalography is also being used in academic environments. At Cardiff University, for example, the technology is used to study human brain activity in patients with illnesses such as as epilepsy, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.
MEG is a promising technology that can be used to measure brain activity. Using the activity of a patient’s healthy brain as a baseline, it is possible to identify any deterioration or change over time, enabling clinicians to intervene if necessary to protect brain health and minimise the damage to cognitive function. From a patient’s point of view, it is much less invasive and stressful than, for example, an MRI or an EEG. It is not currently used widely outside private clinics and academia, but in future it would be good to see it adopted in the NHS to help patients experiencing cognitive decline.