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Neuroscientist. 2006 Dec;12(6):524-44.

Magnetoencephalography as a research tool in neuroscience: state of the art.

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Laboratory for Human Brain Dynamics, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Saitama, Japan.


Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a noninvasive neuroimaging method for detecting, analyzing, and interpreting the magnetic field generated by the electrical activity in the brain. Modern hardware can capture the MEG signal at hundreds of points around the head in a snapshot lasting only a fraction of a millisecond. The sensitivity of modern hardware is high enough to permit the extraction of a clean signal generated by the brain well above the noise level of the MEG hardware. It is possible to identify signatures of superficial and often deep generators in the raw MEG signal, even in snapshots of data. In a more quantitative way, tomographic images of the electrical current density in the brain can be extracted from each snapshot of MEG signal, providing a direct correlate of coherent collective neuronal activity. A number of recent studies have scrutinized brain function in the new spatiotemporal window that real-time tomographic analysis of MEG signals has opened. The results have allowed the variability in a single area to be seen in the context of activity in other areas and background rhythmic activity. In this view, normal brain function is seen as a cascade of extremely fast events and the unfolding of specialized processes, segregated in space and time and organized into well-defined stages of processing.

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