Background

Whole-head MEG scanners have been manufactured by a variety of vendors from the early nineties until the present. The significant design features of all instruments available in the marketplace today were established early on, with only incremental improvement since then. However, available cryogenics, sensors, electronic components, circuits and software have all been dramatically improved during that same period. York Instruments has taken advantage of this opportunity to design a revolutionary new MEG system that is more robust and accurate, liquid Helium free, highly modular, takes advantage of modern advances and yet has the ability to keep pace with changes in technology going forward.

For the clinician, this means faster, more accurate diagnosis, especially of those patients suffering from epilepsy. For the neuroscientist, this means detection of even the most subtle changes in brain activity. For translational researchers, this means an open platform to speed the development of new indications.

The wait for an entirely new breed of MEG is coming to an end. Find out more.

Design Philosophy

The York Instruments MEG design has a unique changeable front-end sensor interface and state-of-the art electronics back-end. It has software that is user extendable for the research environment, while still offering a safe clinical environment for standard protocols.

The electronics and software use only standard protocols, so that the system is easily incorporated into existing high speed computer networks. This allows, for example, real time displays of all channels and, even more importantly, real-time processing. The core electronics are based on a modular design, which allows the incorporation of different sensor configurations; easy stimulus delivery and response recording; physiological monitoring; as well as future expansion.

Software is being prepared to take advantage of recent developments, such as for example cloud computing and other modern technologies. For the research user, open access to the core protocols is provided. Access to data streams are available for interfacing to external equipment synchronized to the main system. Users can add their own devices, data acquisition procedures, online visualization and processing algorithms.

The concept of Cloud Computing provides shared processing resources and data on demand. York Instruments is investigating providing such services to the field of MEG data analysis and related neurophysiological modalities. The resulting possibilities for shared information and resources will drive future growth in MEG research and ultimately the clinical utility of MEG.

The Sensor

The magnetic field sensors are the heart of every MEG and its quality dictates the usefulness of the instrument. York Instruments has an exclusive license to use the HyQuid™ sensor, developed at Royal Holloway University, which is much more sensitive and has a lower noise floor than the traditional SQUID used in all previous MEG systems. These sensors have substantially less low-frequency noise, allowing recordings of slow wave activity for resting state studies and, even more significantly, for clinical applications where slow waves are symptomatic of underlying pathology. This opens the door to a host of possibilities for MEG, especially in the areas of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. At the other end of the spectrum, ultra-high frequency oscillations of very low amplitude are also easily measurable.

The York Instruments MEG is ideally suited to be a versatile, powerful functional brain imaging tool.

The HyQuid™ does not suffer from flux trapping, a weak point of many existing MEG technologies. It can be operated in a wide range of background magnetic fields and is resistant to RF interference, allowing great versatility in siting of the lab.

The standard system contains over 250 MEG channels, with additional analogue and digital input channels.

Modular Electronics

The system electronics incorporates state of the art components to keep noise levels as low as possible and system performance at a maximum. The low power demands of components means that the system can even be powered by batteries. Each module in the system is monitored so that changes in performance can be detected and reported. Data acquisition is carried out by true, highly linear, 24bit ADCs capable of sample rates up to 80,000 samples per second.

Cooling System

York Instruments has also taken advantage of changes in cryogenics technology: Just as with modern MRI machines, it is now possible to make MEG liquid Helium free. This removes the need for filling or complex recycling of cryogens. This represents one of the most significant changes to MEG technology in decades. A vibration free pulse tube is used to maintain the low temperature required, without interference. The result is a system that is much more compact, has lower operating cost, can be turned off and on in a matter of hours instead of days, is potentially transportable and can be installed in locations where it is difficult to ensure a regular liquid Helium supply.

Software Packages

System configuration, monitoring, calibration, maintenance and acquisition are all provided via powerful Linux-based software. A full featured research environment has been designed to allow for flexibility and the option to add custom hooks for visualization and/or processing. A simple but flexible GUI interface is provided for all data analyses.

Beyond the full-featured analysis package, York Instruments is also developing packages optimized for clinical MEG data analysis. These will target disorders such as epilepsy, sensory/motor mapping and functional disorders, including mild to moderate traumatic brain injury. Connectivity measurements and sleep studies, amongst others, are supported.

The company is working with a team of clinical advisors to ensure the software will allow for better clinical throughput and insightful MEG findings. The design is expected to revolutionize MEG data analysis capability and convenience.

For each modality, the company consults with world-leading experts in their respective specialties. This includes epileptologist practitioners, neurosurgeons versed in surgical planning systems, neuromodulation experts and TBI/PTSD authorities.

The York Difference

The new MEG is an unprecedented combination of modern sensors, cryogenics, electronics and software. It offers highly improved data quality and accuracy; opens the door to previously unachievable applications; lowers operating cost; and increases versatility.

The York Instruments MEG is more than simply state-of-the-art. Be prepared.