Scientists develop brain scanner in a helmet

A handout photo released on March 21, 2018 via Nature from Wellcome shows a woman with a brain scanner. (AFP PHOTO / NATURE / WELLCOME)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Scientists develop brain scanner in a helmet

British scientists have developed a lightweight and highly sensitive brain imaging device that can be worn as a helmet, allowing the patient to move about naturally.
Results from tests of the scanner showed that patients were able to stretch, nod and even drink tea or play table tennis while their brain activity was being recorded, millisecond by millisecond, by the magnetoencephalography (MEG) system.
Researchers who developed the device and published their results in the journal Nature said they hoped the new scanner would improve research and treatment for patients who can’t use traditional fixed MEG scanners, such as children with epilepsy, babies, or patients with disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
“This has the potential to revolutionize the brain imaging field, and transform the scientific and clinical questions that can be addressed with human brain imaging,” said Gareth Barnes, a professor at the Wellcome Trust Center for Human Neuroimaging at University College London, who co-led the work.
Current MEG scanners are cumbersome and weigh as much as half a ton, partly because the sensors they use to measure the brain’s magnetic field need to be kept very cold — at minus 269 degrees Celsius, Barnes’ team explained.
They also run into difficulties when patients are unable to stay very still — very young children or patients with movement disorders for example — since even a 5-millimeter movement can mean the images are unusable.
In the helmet scanner, the researchers overcame these problems by using quantum sensors, which are lightweight, work at room temperature and can be placed directly onto scalp — increasing the amount of signal they are able to pick up.
Matt Brookes, who worked with Barnes and built the prototype at Nottingham university, said that as well as overcoming the challenge of some patients being unable to stay still, the wearable scanner offers new possibilities in measuring peoples’ brain function during real world tasks and social interactions.
“This has significant potential for impact on our understanding of not only healthy brain function but also on a range of neurological, neurodegenerative and mental health conditions.”


Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

Updated 20 March 2019
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

  • 5G will be used in 30% of big cities in Saudi Arabia by 2020
  • 90% of KSA has 4G technology coverage, including remote centers and villages

RIYADH: Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the main drivers of development in today’s world, a Riyadh forum on “Digital Transformation for an Ambitious Country” has been told.

In his opening speech to the annual Communications and Information Technology Indicators Forum, Abdul Aziz Al-Ruwais, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said the ICT sector stimulated productivity, enhanced competitiveness and encouraged innovation.

On Wednesday, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, joined regional and global leaders in the ICT sector, telecom executives and government officials at the forum.

Al-Ruwais said that ICT has been used to “develop strategies and regulatory policies that can guarantee the availability of infrastructure, basic apparatus and services in all regions of the Kingdom.”

“In order to facilitate the mission of researchers, experts and those interested in telecommunication services indicators, the Communications and Information Technology Commission established an electronic platform that allows the user to have access to indicators and statistics related to the sector. This platform enables the user to view the indicators in the form of tables and detailed graphs,” he said.

Al-Ruwais said the commission has achieved 90 percent coverage of 4G technologies in the Kingdom, including remote centers and villages.

He said the authority has issued temporary licenses for fifth-generation networks, equipping 153 sites with 5G in nine cities. So far, 680 trials were conducted for 5G.

He said that ICT services achieved high indicators during the 2017 Hajj season, with local and international calls totaling 439 million through 16,000 base stations.

Mufarreh Nahari, director of Market Studies at CITC, said: “It is expected that by 2020 the experimental uses of 5G will be fully completed and they will be ready to launch the official 5G sim by then. By the end of 2020 we expect that 5G will be used in 30 percent of the big cities in Saudi Arabia.”

The past three years have seen an increase in internet usage. In 2018, two-thirds of Internet users in the Kingdom used the internet for more than four hours a day, said Nahari.

Ammar Al-Ansari, department head of Country Digital Acceleration at Cisco, said: “The agreements signed by the crown prince during his overseas visits led to the introduction of a number of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, including virtual schools and smart classrooms.” 

Seven schools in Saudi have a live stream for teachers to connect with their students. They may be 250 km to 300 km apart, but an active learning session takes place between students and educators.

Al-Ansari displayed a video from a teacher in Jeddah giving lessons to students in the northern region via a smart board. AI was used to monitor and analyze students’ attention spans. 

The analysis will help educators update traditional teaching methods.