24 October 2002
New non-invasive sensor can detect brainwaves remotely
Scientists have developed a remarkable sensor that can record brainwaves without the need for electrodes to be inserted into the brain or even for them to be placed on the scalp.
Conventional electroencephalograms (EEGs) monitor electrical activity in the brain with electrodes placed either on the scalp (involving hair removal and skin abrasion) or inserted directly into the brain with needles. Now a non-invasive form of EEG has been devised by Professor Terry Clark and his colleagues in the Centre for Physical Electronics at the University of Sussex.
Instead of measuring charge flow through an electrode (with attendant distortions, in the case of scalp electrodes) the new system measures electric fields remotely, an advance made possible by new developments in sensor technology. Professor Clark says: "It's a new age as far as sensing the electrical dynamics of the body is concerned."
The Sussex researchers believe their new sensor will instigate major advances in the collection and display of electrical information from the brain, especially in the study of drowsiness and the human-machine interface.
"The possibilities for the future are boundless," says Professor Clark. "The advantages offered by these sensors compared with the currently used contact electrodes may act to stimulate new developments in multichannel EEG monitoring and in real-time electrical imaging of the brain."
"By picking up brain signals non-invasively, we could find ourselves controlling machinery with our thoughts alone: a marriage of mind and machine."
The same group of scientists has already made remote-sensing ECG units as well, which can detect heartbeats with no connections at all.
Notes for editors
The research is published in Applied Physics Letters of 21 October: C. J. Harland, T. D. Clark and R. J. Prance, 'Remote detection of human electroencephalograms using ultrahigh input impedance electric potential sensors'. See http://ojps.aip.org/dbt/dbt.jsp?KEY=APPLAB&Volume=81&Issue=17 .
For an image of Dr Harland's brain taken using the new sensor, see http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2002/166.htm .
For information about the Centre for Physical Electronics at the University of Sussex, see http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/pei .
To contact Professor Terry Clark, tel. 01273 678087, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press Office contacts:
Alison Field or Peter Simmons
tel. 01273 678888
fax 01273 877456
email A.Field@sussex.ac.uk or P.J.Simmons@sussex.ac.uk
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