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Quantum Sensors

The use of quantum technology in sensors will increase the potential information content, by enabling improved proximity, better sensitivity and higher resolution. This will enable ready access to precision health in clinics. Quantum sensors will be smaller, enabling higher spatial resolution, and more capable, giving better sensitivity and more information. Finally, they will also be more flexible, supporting a broader range of applications. Fundamentally, quantum sensors offer more precise performance at lower risk, because of lower radiation doses, and non-invasive alternatives to current technologies. There are potential applications for all age groups from babies to older people.

Contact – Researchers

Daniel Lundquist

Associate Professor Daniel Lundqvist is the Director of CIR (Centre for Imaging Research) and Head of the Neuro division (Department of Clinical Neuroscience) Karolinska Institute.  Daniel’s research focuses on understanding the intersection between brain and mind, using next-generation brain imaging methods such as on-scalp MEG. The group is currently exploring the unique use of the novel on-scalp MEG sensors, with a particular focus on emerging applications within epilepsy and cognitive neuroscience.

More about the Quantum Sensors project

The human capacity for thought, action, memory, experience, emotion, speech and movement is based on the functioning and interaction of our brain cells. The activity patterns of brain cells exhibit exceptional complexity in how they synchronize with each other across the brain. To study the complex activity patterns of brain cells in healthy individuals and in disease-related changes, researchers need a brain imaging method that can record these activity patterns with a sufficiently high resolution of detail.

Magnetic encephalography (MEG) is a technique that can measure changes in the weak magnetic field that occurs when our brain cells are activated with a uniquely high level of detail. With millimetre and millisecond resolution, it allows scientists and clinicians to analyse brain activity, for example to understand the relationship between brain activity and psychological processes such as memory or perception, and to identify disease-related changes in brain activity, and in some cases to diagnose disease.

The MEG method has a unique ability to record the activity of brain cells, but the method is rare. NatMEG is Sweden’s first and currently only research facility to measure whole brain activity using MEG technology. NatMEG is open to all research groups in Sweden that need advanced electrophysiological methods to study brain function. Through systematic outreach, NatMEG has built a national user base in the fields of cognitive and clinical neuroscience, clinical applications and instrumentation. NatMEG is also an established, national resource for routine evaluation of patients with epilepsy.

The MEG methodology is currently going through an extremely important phase of development. The sensors of conventional MEG, cooled with liquid helium and placed in a helmet, are being challenged by next-generation sensors that can also be adapted to the shape of the head and placed directly against the scalp, resulting in significantly higher sensitivity. With this development, on-scalp MEG shows the potential to break further new ground in imaging and understanding human brain function. On-scalp MEG has been shown in studies to record a greater amount of information from brain activity, with even greater detail. The method has also been shown to detect clinically relevant activity in epilepsy patients that cannot be detected by either conventional MEG or EEG.

Sweden has made important contributions to the development of MEG sensors for on-scalp MEG, both in terms of the sensors themselves (driven by Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg) and in terms of academic and clinical applications and method development (with important contributions from Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital). Continued progress in this area requires a national platform for on-scalp MEG, where both continued sensor development can be supported, and the continued development of academic and clinical applications can be both broadened and accelerated.

The on-scalp MEG field is now at a critical juncture, where the Swedish MEG field can now be tactically strengthened and developed. On-scalp MEG sensors are now commercially available, but very few laboratories still exist in the world. Through this application we want to install an internationally competitive 128-channel on-scalp MEG system, integrated into the existing and well-functioning national MEG laboratory NatMEG. The technology for on-scalp MEG is just ripe for this stage of development, and the investment would make NatMEG an internationally leading cutting-edge facility for developments in the field.

Overall, an on-scalp MEG system would provide a nationally available method for an exceptionally high-resolution analysis of brain activity. This will lead to a better understanding of brain function per se but also of dysfunctional processes associated with different degrees and types of neurological diseases. In this way, basic research on brain function and the individual suffering associated with these diseases is promoted.