Aug 22, 2007
Assessing the functional status of the brain is far from straightforward. Unlike other organs of the body, there are currently no good tests of brain function available; instead, physicians have to rely on behavioural examination. That could be about to change, however, with the demonstration that magnetoencephalography (MEG), the non-invasive measurement of magnetic fields associated with neuronal activity, can be used to diagnose functional brain disorders (J. Neural Eng. 4 349).
In a study led by Apostolos P. Georgopoulos, professor in the neuroscience and neurology departments at the University of Minnesota Medical School (Minneapolis, MN), researchers used MEG to evaluate patterns of neural activity in volunteers with a range of brain conditions. As described in their research paper Synchronous neural interactions assessed by magnetoencephalography: a functional biomarker for brain disorders, the team demonstrated that interactions among neuronal populations - an essential aspect of brain function - can potentially act as biomarkers for several brain diseases. If such a capability can be transferred into a routine clinical application, MEG could one day provide a fast and simple screening test for brain disease, or be used to differentiate brain disorders with similar symptoms. "For the first clinical applications, we have targeted the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease," Georgopoulos told medicalphysicsweb. Magnetic means Georgopoulos and co-workers (including researchers from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis) used MEG to examine a total of 142 subjects. The volunteers comprised 89 healthy controls, plus patients with multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, Sjögren's syndrome (presenting with cognitive problems), chronic alcoholism and facial pain, as diagnosed by specialists in the respective fields. MEG differentiates functional brain disease MEG