Electrical signals from nerves in the brain cause weak magnetic fields which can be measured by means of magnetoencephalography (MEG). A project supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has investigated the extent to which direct measurement of neural electrical activity can be coupled with MEG to diagnose and treat epilepsy. The findings are important in view of today’s spiralling health care costs, as the apparatus used to detect magnetic fields in the brain is 30 times as expensive as that used to measure electrical signals directly.
About three percent of all Europeans develop epilepsy in the course of their lifetimes. In Austria 64,000 people are currently suffering from the disease. The illness is typically caused by unusual activity in the nerve cells in certain regions of the brain. This can be measured by electroencephalography (EEG) - a technique that has been around for over 70 years - or MEG which is a much more recent development. Professor Christoph Baumgartner of the Neurological University Clinic at Vienna General Hospital has looked into the effect of combining both methods on the accuracy with which the affected parts of the brain can be localised. The results of the research, which was supported by the FWF, indicate that the new approach is better than either EEG or MEG alone at localising the hyperactive regions of the brain. It also has the advantage that the risky "invasive" methods - introducing electrodes into the brain - do not have to be used as often.
Prof. Christoph Baumgartner | alfa
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