Feeds

Supercooled lead hats aid brain scans

It's all about the Meissner effect

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Magnetic brain scans look set to get more accurate, thanks to medical physicists at Los Alamos. The researchers have said they can filter out electronic background noise during measurements of brain activity if the patient wears a lead helmet.

Taking direct measurements of brain activity can only be done using Magnetoencephalography (MEG). It measures the magnetic fields generated by current flowing in and around neurons. These fields are tiny: around 10-14 to 10-13 Tesla, and detecting them is no mean feat. An MEG scanner uses superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) sensors to measure them. However, because the fields are so small, it doesn't take much to disrupt or overwhelm the signal.

So, how do you keep out electronic background noise that interferes with the signals from the brain? You use a tin foil hat on steroids.

The hat is actually made from lead, chilled until it becomes superconducting. A liquid helium cryostat keeps it below eight kelvin. It takes advantage of the tendency of superconducting materials to actively exclude magnetic fields from their interior, known as the Meissner Effect. So external magnetic fields won't get in and, researchers say, the helmet won't affect the currents in the brain.

Early tests suggest interference can be reduced by six orders of magnitude, or a million times. The team is still working to improve the shielding, however, as noise levels are still high around the brim. ®

Related stories

Tinfoil hats to retail with RFID tags?
IBM and Stanford's spintronics revolution
Super-duper conductivity is coming

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.