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SPECIALITY



        Quantum brain sensors could


        be crucial in spotting dementia


        after scientists find they can


        track brain waves





              ew highly sensitive quantum    “This could be really significant for   from the outside, eliminating the
              sensors for the brain may in   doctors and patients concerned with   health risks currently associated
        Nthe future be able to identify      the development of brain disorders.”  for some patients with invasive
        brain diseases such as dementia,                                         scanners.
        ALS and Parkinson’s, by spotting     These quantum sensors are
        a slowing in the speed at which      believed to be much more accurate   Currently MEG scanners are
        signals travel across the brain. The   than either EEG or fMRI scanners,   expensive and bulky, making them
        research findings from a paper led   due in part to the fact that the    challenging to use in clinical practice.
        by University of Sussex quantum      sensors can get closer to the skull.   This development of quantum sensor
        physicists are published in Scientific   The closer proximity of the sensors   technology could be crucial for
        Reports journal.                     to the brain can not only improve   transferring the scanners from highly
                                             the spatial, but also the temporal   controlled laboratory environments
        The quantum scanners being           resolution of the results. This double   into real-world clinical settings.
        developed by the scientists can      improvement of both time and space
        detect the magnetic fields generated   accuracy is highly significant as it   “It’s our hope with this development”
        when neurons fire. Measuring         means brain signals can be tracked   adds Gialopsou. “That in discovering
        moment-to-moment changes in the      in ways that are inaccessible to    this enhanced function of quantum
        brain, they track the speed at which   other types of sensors.           brain scanners the door is opened
        signals move across the brain. This                                      to further developments that could
        time-element is important because    “It’s the quantum technology which   bring about a quantum revolution
        it means a patient could be scanned   makes these sensors so accurate,”   in neuroscience. This matters
        twice several months apart to check   explains Professor Peter Kruger,   because, although the scanners are
        whether the activity in their brain   who leads the Quantum Systems      in their infancy, it has implications
        is slowing down. Such slowing can    and Devices lab at the University of   for future developments that could
        be a sign of Alzheimer’s or other    Sussex. He adds:                    lead to crucial early diagnosis of
        diseases of the brain.                                                   brain diseases, such as ALS, MS
                                             “The sensors contain a gas of       and even Alzheimer’s. That’s what
        In this way, the technology introduces   rubidium atoms. Beams of laser   motivates us as a team.”
        a new method to spot bio-markers of   light are shone at the atoms,
        early health problems.               and when the atoms experience       Story Source:
                                             changes in a magnetic field, they   Materials provided by University of
        Aikaterini Gialopsou, a doctoral     emit light differently. Fluctuations in   Sussex. Original written by Alice
        researcher in the School of          the emitted light reveal changes in   Ingall. Note: Content may be edited
        Mathematical and Physical Sciences   the magnetic activity in the brain.   for style and length.
        at the University of Sussex and      The quantum sensors are accurate
        Brighton and Sussex Medical School   within milliseconds, and within     Journal Reference:
        is the lead author on the paper. She   several millimetres.”             1. Aikaterini Gialopsou, Christopher
        says of the discovery:                                                   Abel, T. M. James, Thomas
                                             The technology behind the scanners   Coussens, Mark G. Bason, Reuben
        “We’ve shown for the first time that   is called magnetoencephalography   Puddy, Francesco Di Lorenzo,
        quantum sensors can produce highly   (MEG). Combining MEG tech with      Katharina Rolfs, Jens Voigt, Tilmann
        accurate results in terms of both    these new quantum sensors has       Sander, Mara Cercignani, Peter
        space and time. While other teams    developed a non-invasive way to     Krüger. Improved spatio-temporal
        have shown the benefits in terms of   probe activity in the brain. Unlike   measurements of visually evoked
        locating signals in the brain, this is   existing brain scanners -- which send   fields using optically-pumped
        the first time that quantum sensors   a signal into the brain and record   magnetometers. Scientific Reports,
        have proved to be so accurate in     what come back -- MEG passively     2021; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-
        terms of the timing of signals too.  measures what is occurring inside   021-01854-7



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