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.”


Hackers steal 1.5 million Singapore health records in record cyberattack

Updated 20 July 2018
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Hackers steal 1.5 million Singapore health records in record cyberattack

SINGAPORE: Hackers have stolen health records belonging to 1.5 million Singaporeans, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who was specifically targeted in the city state’s biggest ever data breach, authorities said Friday.
Singapore’s health and information ministries said a government database was broken into in a “deliberate, targeted and well-planned” strike, describing the attack as “unprecedented.”
“Attackers specifically and repeatedly targeted the personal particulars and outpatient information of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,” health minister Gan Kim Yong told a media conference.
Officials declined to elaborate on the identity of the hackers citing “operational security.”
Wealthy Singapore is hyper connected and on a drive to digitize government databases and essential services.
While the city-state has some of the most advanced military weaponry in the region, authorities have long warned of cyber breaches, with attackers ranging from high-school students in their basements to criminals and state-actors.
In 2017, hackers broke into a defense ministry database, stealing the information of some 850 army conscripts and ministry staff.