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Towards a clinical MEG system: theoretical and practical insights into the use of optically pumped magnetometers

Project Description

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that allows characterisation of human brain electrophysiology by measuring magnetic fields generated by neural currents. Since its invention in 1968, MEG has shown its value for understanding brain function in health and disease, providing unique insights into neurophysiological processes.
One of the major limitations of MEG is the requirement of a very expensive and bulky system that has constrained its use to research-only environments. In 2018, researchers from the UK presented a revolutionary technology to tackle these limitations, making wearable MEG sensors a reality. These sensors, labelled Optically Pumped Magnetometers (OPMs), rely on a radically different principle for measuring magnetic fields without the need of a cryogenic-cooling system. Additionally, OPMs can be placed directly on the scalp, enhancing the signal-to-noise-ratio by 5-10 times. This breakthrough in the field has generated great expectations to move MEG to the clinical practice. However, there are plenty technical challenges that need immediate attention, including sensor characterisation, study of the compatibility with other electrophysiological modalities [as electroencephalography (EEG)], and the analysis of noise properties.
In this project, the student will perform a detailed analysis of OPMs for measuring magnetic brain signals. The research plan has four stages to be completed in 3.5 years: 1. Literature search, training in electromagnetic brain signals, standard MEG acquisition, and the use of OPMs (yr 0.0-0.8). 2. Comparison between OPMs and standard (SQUID) sensors (yr 0.8-1.3). 3. Design of optimal sensor positioning standards and analysis of compatibility with EEG (yr 1.3-2.5). 4. Practical demonstrations, reporting, and viva (yr 2.5-3.5). Those with an existing background in neurophysiology and MEG will be able to move into stage 2 sooner. The student will have access to the MEG suite in CUBRIC, as well as state-of-the-art OPMs recently acquired by the supervisory team (funded by EPSRC).

Funding Notes

Full UK/EU tuition fees plus stipend matching UKRI Minimum.

Full awards are open to UK Nationals and EU students who meet UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least three years prior to the start of the course including for full-time education.

A small number of awards may also be made available to EU Nationals who do not meet the above residency requirement, provided they have been ordinarily resident in the EU for at least three years before the start of their proposed programme of study.


L Beltrachini, “Sensitivity of the projected subtraction approach to mesh degeneracies and its impact on the forward problem in EEG”, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, in press (2018)

L Beltrachini, N von Ellenrieder, CH Muravchik, “General bounds for electrode mislocation on the EEG inverse problem”, Computer methods and programs in biomedicine 103 (1), 1-9 (2011)

Messaritaki, E., Koelewijn, L., Dima, D.C., (...), Perry, G., Singh, K.D. (2017). Assessment and elimination of the effects of head movement on MEG resting-state measures of oscillatory brain activity. NeuroImage, 159, pp. 302-324.

How good is research at Cardiff University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 19.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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