(NewsWire) Sandia National Laboratories is designing a wearable brain imager based on a kind of quantum sensor called an optically pumped magnetometer, or OPM. The OPM pinpoints brain signals with the same accuracy as a commercial, superconductor-based machine. Measurements made by each system were less than a centimeter apart. This research was also funded by NIH.
“We have demonstrated a functional brain-imaging system using our quantum sensors that is as reliable as a commercial superconductor-based system,” Borna said. The Sandia team designed, built and calibrated their sensors in-house, rather than buying commercial ones.
Information travels through the brain by electrical currents. Sandia’s sensor uses a laser to turn rubidium gas into a tiny cloud of atomic magnets that, when in a magnetic field, spin like tops. With Sandia’s current apparatus, a patch of these sensors is placed directly against a person’s head inside a magnetically shielded tube resembling an MRI. Then, a second laser measures changes in each cloud to infer a naturally occurring but barely perceptible magnetic field immediately outside a person’s head, created by the electrical currents in the brain. Finally, the magnetic field map is inverted to give the location of brain activity.