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SFU’s ImageTech Lab gains new tech ally in advancing brain research

October 05, 2023

New technology acquired by SFU’s ImageTech Lab—a core facility based at Surrey Memorial Hospital—is promising to help advance brain research and improve our knowledge of brain disease and injury. 

The newly installed TRIUX™ neo, from Finland-based neuroscience technology company MEGIN, is providing researchers with access to the latest magnetoencephalography (MEG) technology, furthering their ability to carry out adult and pediatric scans with advanced capabilities. 

The new MEG is also being used with the lab’s high field 3T whole body MRI, which together provide easy access to multi-modal imaging. The lab, the first-of-its-kind in western Canada to house both technologies, is enabling the region’s top health innovators to bring rapid advancements in brain disease/disorder and injury treatment.

Already benefiting from the new MEG are researchers from SFU’s Institute of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology (INN), who are using the latest MEG technology to build brain simulations to identify what makes the brain resilient to diseases as we age. 

INN director Randy McIntosh, a renowned neuroscientist and BC Leadership Chair in Neuroscience and Technology Across the Lifespan, says the new technology will be used alongside the MRI to draw baseline data that measure brain function and structure to better understand genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that impact the onset, progression and symptoms of dementia.

“These data serve as the foundation for personalized brain simulations, constructed with The Virtual Brain,” says McIntosh. A reference tool for full brain simulation, The Virtual Brain was co-developed by McIntosh and is part of the global Human Brain Project, now in its final phase. Study participants will also be given mobile/wearable devices so researchers can assess cognition and sleep, a sensitive index of brain health, over time.

Using the simulations with these data, researchers will develop models that identify optimal trajectories for brain health and trajectories that indicate risk for cognitive decline from dementia and related disorders.

Researchers will also draw from participants of the ongoing British Columbia Generations Project (BCGP) to collect new neuroimaging, cognitive and genetic data and create a dataset tailored for understanding both the biological and social factors that influence resilience capacity.

“Having access to the latest MEG technologies offers unparalleled opportunities to watch the brain in action and empowers health researchers to make significant advances in the treatment of serious brain disorders and diseases,” says Dugan O’Neil, SFU’s vice-president research and International. “The acquisition ensures that SFU’s ImageTech Lab continues to be globally competitive in advanced brain imaging—while benefiting patients and their families across the region.”

Addressing sustainability and accuracy

A key feature of the new MEG is its internal helium recycler, which, in keeping with SFU’s sustainability goals, significantly reduces cost and supply sourcing. MEGIN’s new model eliminates the need to refill helium by circulating it in a closed cycle.  

The highly sensitive technology can accurately detect and localize neural events that are generated in the brain with “exquisite” resolution. 

Providing a direct measure of brain activity, the new MEG offers the most precise information currently available for functional imaging children and adults, giving researchers new opportunities to study brain disorders and diseases, including brain injuries and tumors, epilepsy, autism, mental illness and more, including an ongoing national longitudinal study on Alzheimer’s disease.

“MEGIN’s TRIUX Neo moves our MEG capacity to be leading, state-of-the-art, allowing us to efficiently and effectively conduct MEG research,” says ImageTech Lab scientific director Carolyn Sparrey, an associate professor in SFU’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering.

“The integrated helium recycler eliminates the unpredictable costs and logistics of helium fills, while the integrated tools for localization accelerate scan preparation and analysis, reducing stress and time for patients and researchers. 

“The outstanding support we have received from MEGIN and the opportunities to partner with MEGIN on research to impact Canadians has us excited about the next phase of MEG research at ImageTech.”

Craig Shapero, MEGIN CEO, says, “We are proud to now be the MEG technology utilized in SFU’s excellent brain imaging core facility, ImageTech Lab. We look forward to seeing how the TRIUX™ neo will be integrated into the institution to enhance research. Being able to partner with SFU will enable MEGIN to collaboratively grow the field of MEG, and we look forward to continuing share updates from this site.”

For more information or to make a lab booking, visit the ImageTech Lab website.