Measurement of brain activity and brain structure with high accuracy in space and time requires precise modeling and a highly specialized instrument. In this project, we have faced the vast array of technological challenges posed by designing and implementing such an instrument. Most of these are problems that do not have existing solutions provided by knowledge in engineering — indeed, academic research has been crucial for making the technology reality. It is particularly noteworthy that ULF MRI is a completely new form of imaging that borrows little from conventional magnetic resonance imaging. Making magnetoencephalography (MEG) compatible with ULF MRI is also a challenge of its own.
When aiming at higher capabilities in MRI pulse sequences and ever higher sensitivity for the magnetic measurement, each part of the technology is a candidate for being the weakest link. The weakest link produces the most measurement error or completely prevents the instrument from functioning. Improving one part thus typically comes with a need for improving other parts as well.
At Aalto University, in collaboration with Elekta and VTT, we have developed a new cross-modal MEG–MRI system which improves all parts of the system compared to the previous state of the art. This includes everything from the nuts and bolts of the MRI implementation, electronics and software to the sensor array as well as acquisition system. After facing many challenges, both expected and unexpected, we have finally been able to demonstrate the first measurements of brain activity with the final prototype. However, the most exciting results are yet to come, and the current situation leaves a fertile ground for the upcoming MAX-BAS (EU) and TUTLI (Business Finland) projects, moving also towards commercialization.
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