The biggest challenge in acquiring good quality brain imaging data is making sure that a child stays as still as possible while having their brain scanned. If they move around during the scan, the quality of data is often negatively affected. This problem affects nearly all brain imaging techniques, but none more so than with young people. Having a technology that could still provide good quality data even while a child moves about would be transformative.
Dr Tim Tierney
There are over 100,000 young people with epilepsy in the UK and in some cases, neurosurgery is the only treatment option. For children, the additional burden of epilepsy is that it may impair learning and development. Surgical planning relies heavily on brain imaging and the younger the person, the more likely the surgery will be successful. However, younger children often have difficulty remaining still in conventional brain scanners and this movement severely degrades image quality, meaning that essential neurosurgery can be delayed.
Dr Tierney’s team have developed a wearable brain scanner that can deliver enhanced quality images, even when a child is not still. Unfortunately, these scanners can only function in specialized and expensive magnetically shielded rooms, which few hospitals have. This project will develop a sensor, known as the radio frequency magnetometer, that can be worn in a normal hospital ward or residential setting while being sensitive to the brain activity produced in epilepsy.
A precise and wearable brain scanner would eliminate the need for invasive assessments and ultimately provide enhanced surgical planning at a much younger age for many more children, at much-reduced cost and risk.