Distinguished researchers brought to Western Sweden for a symposium on neuro oscillations and next-gen MEG sensors

Participants at the conference

A lunch-to-lunch symposium that took place in Gothenburg on May 27-28 brought distinguished researchers from Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, Belgium, and the US. The organizers were particularly proud to host two of the most well-known MEG names in the world: Matti Hämäläinen from Aalto University, Finland and Harvard’s MGH in the US and Riitta Hari from Aalto University.

The symposium comprised inspiring lectures, lively “fika” breaks, and delectable meals. Every moment was packed with animated and optimistic discussions on the future of MEG technology, what it might reveal in the rising field of neuro-oscillations and connectivity, and what the past has to teach those of us that are working to develop what we hope will become the next-generation in MEG technology.
The man running the show at KI’s NatMEG and the main organizer of the symposium was Daniel Lundqvist, who kicked things off by providing a glimpse of the various research activities that are ongoing in his lab. It was awe-inspiring to see that, despite its being established less than 2 years ago, there are already some 30+ projects running or queuing for time in Sweden’s only fully-equipped MEG lab. I couldn’t resist but follow-up by pointing out that Stockholm’s NatMEG isn’t the only MEG lab in Sweden: We’ve been doing MEG recordings here in Gothenburg since 2010!

I went on to describe our MedTech West efforts towards putting together a full-head MEG system based on new and improved sensor technology: so-called high-Tc SQUIDs. I was followed by one of the biggest names in high-Tc SQUID R&D, Michael Faley from Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany. Michael dug deep into the physics, materials science, and engineering work he and his group have put into high-Tc SQUID systems for geo-exploration (i.e. ore discovery), non-destructive evaluation (e.g. bridge integrity assessment), and biomagnetism (MEG, of course!).
To extend the picture even further, Riitta Hari gave a first-person history of MEG from its early days all the way up to her exciting lines of research today. The first MEG systems were not unlike those we are developing here in Gothenburg. Single-channel systems popped up in the late ‘70s, 7-channel systems—like the one we’re presently constructing—came to the fore-front in 1986, and by 1993, they had constructed a full-head system. Riitta’s practical knowledge of the physics, engineering, neuroscience, and physiology relevant to MEG was and will continue to be a powerful source of inspiration for us thanks to her curious and easy-going personality.

The picture could not have been complete, however, without Matti Hämäläinen. He, like Riitta (and with her, in fact) was there in the beginning when MEG systems had so much to prove. Fortunately, Matti’s experience and knowledge of (among many things!) the advantages—and limitations—of state-of-the-art MEG meant he could provide a convincing picture of what research and clinical problems our next-gen MEG system can solve.

Alexandre Gramfort from Telecom ParisTech in France broadened the picture by providing insight into the “softer” developments presently taking place in the MEG community: better software tools for analysis and visualization of MEG data that can lift both state-of-the-art and next-gen MEG systems to new levels. Clinical application areas are critical to MedTech West. One of the speakers, Xavier de Tiége from Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, had to participate via Skype due to a power failure that shut down air-traffic control. Nevertheless, Xavier enlightened the audience with his experience in MEG-guided epilepsy interventions and how our next-gen MEG hardware might find an important clinical application area in children’s epilepsy. Dag Winkler from Chalmers University of Technology, wrapped things up with a panel discussion during which the speakers were more free to speculate on the future of the MEG field. As new sensor technologies pop up here and there, the field of high-Tc SQUID-based MEG must keep pushing to stay ahead. But we welcome the possibility of some healthy competition!

The symposium was funded by Swedish Bioimaging and StratNeuro, hosted by Chalmers University of Technology, and organized by NatMEG, Chalmers, and MedTech West.

Justin Schneiderman