What is a magnetoencephalography?

A magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a medical test used to analyze brain activity by measuring the magnetic fields produced by electrical currents in the brain. It is arguably the most advanced method of recording and analyzing a brain function, having advantages over similar complementary techniques. It can measure brain activity for milliseconds, having an advantage over MRI scanners, and can determine where brain activity is occurring much more accurately than with an EEG (electroencephalogram).

What does a magnetoencephalography consist of?

Magnetoencephalography involves the use of special equipment to measure the small magnetic fields generated by the activation of neurons in the brain. The scanner uses a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) and a computer to measure this neuromagnetic activity and superimposes the results on an anatomical image of the brain.

The SQUID is very sensitive and is located in a magnetically shielded room to cancel out interference from the Earth’s magnetic field, which is a few million times stronger than those generated by the brain.

Magnetoencephalography measures the magnetic fields generated by the activation of neurons in the brain.
generated by the activation of neurons

Why is magnetoencephalography performed?

Magnetoencephalography is performed to map brain function for diagnostic reasons. One particular use is to identify the origin of epileptic seizures in the brain. It is also used in pre-operative planning and pre-treatment of people with epilepsy, brain tumors or other lesions.

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MEGs are also useful in research, as they help scientists understand the brain.

Preparing for a magnetoencephalography

Jewelry and accessories are not allowed in the room, as they may interfere with the test and it may be best to leave these things at home. Patients with implants (especially metal implants) may not be able to have the scan for the same reason.

As with all medical procedures and tests, follow your doctor’s instructions both before and during the test.

What to expect during the test

Magnetoencephalography is noninvasive and is usually performed in one day. The patient sits in a magnetically shielded room and a large helmet filled with magnetic sensors is placed on the patient’s head. It is loose-fitting, so it does not cause claustrophobia.

An EEG can be performed at the same time, which would involve placing electrodes on the patient’s scalp.

You may have to perform certain actions, ask questions, look at pictures, listen to sounds or read to find out how he or she responds to various stimuli and to identify which parts of the brain are responsible for different things. You may also have to sleep during the test.