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Marking a key milestone for quantum brain imaging technology, researchers at the University of Sussex Quantum Systems and Devices laboratory have successfully developed a modular quantum brain scanner and utilized it to capture a brain signal. The researchers say their device is the first to do that using a modular brain scanner, according to a press release.

Modular sensors can be scaled up and connected together “like Lego bricks,” which is why the researchers also linked two sensors, demonstrating that whole-brain scanning, as well as finding potential advances for detecting and delivering treatment to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, with this technology might be just around the corner.

The device described in the study — which has been published in pre-print — has achieved something that is presently not achievable using commercially available quantum brain sensors from the U.S. It employs ultra-sensitive quantum sensors to pick up minuscule magnetic fields and map neural activity within the brain.

“Our quantum sensor has to be exceptionally sensitive to pick up the magnetic fields in the brain which are very weak indeed. To put it into context, the magnetic field of a brain is a trillion times lower than that of a fridge magnet,” explains Thomas Coussens Ph.D. student at the University of Sussex, who was a part of the study.

Coussens and his colleagues created the sensors, which were then placed on the exterior of a participant’s scalp near the visual cortex of the brain. Then, the participant was instructed to open and shut their eyes every 10-20 seconds. Thanks to the sensors, the team was able able to detect a signal of this movement. This action is indeed simple, but watching it happen within the brain frım the outside “requires hugely sophisticated quantum technology,” per the press release.

“Because our device is so-far unique in that it is modular—and we’ve shown the modularity works by connecting two sensors together—we now plan to scale up this project by building more sensors to turn this into an entire brain imaging system,” says Coussens. The future for this complicated technology seems clear. “This could provide significant advancements in detecting and delivering treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

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