Cerca - Wearable MEG Scanner

A quantum leap in imaging brain function

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Our technology significantly outperforms the current state of the art

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) measures magnetic fields generated by current flow in assemblies of neurons in the brain. Using these fields, we can construct images showing moment-to-moment changes in brain activity. This offers an extremely powerful means to measure brain function and dysfunction in neurological or psychiatric conditions.

Unlike conventional MEG scanners which are large, heavy, one-size-fits-all, and require patients to remain still for long periods of time, our system is worn like a helmet; it adapts to any head size and allows patients to move freely during a scan. It also offers higher sensitivity and better spatial precision at a lower cost than traditional MEG scanners.

Fully-integrated OPM-MEG solution

Application areas

At Cerca, we offer the world’s most advanced functional brain scanner – an integrated lightweight, ergonomic and wearable device that will offer an unparalleled window on human brain function, in health and disease.

Neuroscience

Understanding the human brain across its lifespan is one of the biggest challenges for 21st century science. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) has a proven role as one of the most exciting techniques for non-invasive investigation of brain function, with significant advantages over existing tools. MEG research groups around the world are using this technology to address some of the most fundamental questions about how our brains work, and what goes wrong in neurological or psychiatric disorders.

Mental health

1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health disorder at some point in their lifetime. However, little is known about the neural substrates that underlie serious mental health conditions and there are often no effective treatments. Improvements in functional imaging are vital to improve diagnosis and quality of life. New research shows that MEG is improving our understanding of mental health, and potentially offers new avenues for diagnosis.

Epilepsy

Affects ~50,000,000 people worldwide. Approximately 1 in 3 cases are drug resistant, and for these cases surgery is increasingly recognised as the best option. A MEG scan offers significantly higher chances to achieve seizure freedom post surgery. Epilepsy often affects children, and surgery has higher chances of success in younger people, but current MEG is difficult to deploy in younger participants. With higher spatial accuracy and significantly increased practicality, the Cerca system offers the potential for a step change in the management of epilepsy patients.

Dementia

In 2015, globally ~50,000,000 were suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. In an ageing population, the prevalence of dementia is growing markedly. Yet again little is known about the neural substrates that underlie neurodegeneration. Improvements in imaging are needed to support the current lack of effective management of patients, and MEG offers the potential new biomarkers which could help with early diagnosis.

Brain injury / Trauma

Worldwide ~69,000,000 individuals are estimated to sustain a mild traumatic brain injury each year. 50 % of patients will develop post concussion symptoms (poor concentration and attention, confusion and slowness in thinking). There are no objective assessments for diagnosis of these individuals and a treatment pathway is lacking. Emerging evidence suggests MEG is accurate for diagnosis in >80 % of cases and may offer a means to stratify patients, leading to improved treatment pathways.

What does the Cerca system do?

The human brain is a complex electrical system, comprising around 86 billion electrical cells known as neurons. Everything we experience, our senses, our movements, our thoughts and feelings are controlled via passages of electrical currents through these cells. Like all electrical currents, neuronal currents generate magnetic fields.

The Cerca OPM-MEG System measures these fields, a process known as magnetoencephalography (MEG). In this way, we can provide direct inference on the electrical activity of neurons. Unlike structural imaging (e.g. MRI/X-ray CAT), our system provides direct and objective assessment of brain function, with millisecond temporal precision and millimetre spatial accuracy.
We can track brain networks, in real time, as they respond to different cognitive demands.

Why is Cerca OPM-MEG different?

Conventional MEG systems employ cryogenic sensors – cooled to -269 °C using liquid Helium – to measure the extremely small fields generated by the brain. However, the need for cryogenic infrastructure severely limits usability and system performance.

New breakthroughs in physics have enabled fabrication of devices that exploit the quantum properties of atoms to measure very small magnetic fields. These sensors, known as optically-pumped magnetometers (OPMs) do not need liquid helium cooling, and they are around the size of a Lego brick.

This means they can be mounted on the head in a helmet, which is worn by the participant. Through this change in scanner architecture we are able to turn a half tonne, one-size-fits-all cryogenic machine with fixed sensors, into a lightweight, flexible and wearable system.
Helmets can be made to fit anyone, meaning it is possible to scan adults, or babies, using the same system and because the system is wearable, sensors move with the head meaning participants can move during a scan.

To address the increasing challenges to society posed by mental health issues will require us to develop an understanding of the pathophysiological processes that underpin them. For the first time, OPM-MEG gives us the tool to do so.

Prof. Peter Morris CBE

University of Nottingham

Having access to this ground-breaking wearable MEG system provides a wonderful opportunity. It will increase the number of children for whom life changing epilepsy surgery may be considered, which could ultimately transform their lives and remove the burden of seizures.

Rosemarie Pardington

Director of Integrated Care at Young Epilepsy

The combination of quantum technology and novel magnetic shielding has offered something completely unique – a wearable brain scanner that lifts the restrictions surrounding conventional imaging systems of this type. The Cerca system will provide an extremely advanced device for neuroscientific experimentation. More importantly it will enable a new way to investigate myriad brain health conditions. Understanding the human brain and the many severe and debilitating conditions that affect it is one of the biggest challenges for 21st century science. This new technology will provide one of the platforms from which scientists and clinicians can begin to meet that challenge.

Prof. Matt Brookes

University of Nottingham

5 years ago, we started with a few equations on the back of an envelope, and a few lines of computer code to simulate a system. To have seen this mature into a commercialisable imaging system, which can outperform anything available currently, has been remarkable. There are many advantages to our system but for me the biggest is the ability to scan babies and children. Neurological disorders, like epilepsy, often strike in young children and this new system will provide new information to medical professionals which they can use in treatment planning.

Dr. Elena Boto

University of Nottingham

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