Tiny Signals from the Human Brain: Acquisition and Processing of Biomagnetic Fields in Magnetoencephalography
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Low-temperature superconductivity plays an important role in some specific biomedical applications, and, in particular, in non-invasive imaging methods of human brain activity. Superconducting magnets are indispensable for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which allows functional imaging of the brain with high spatial but poor temporal resolution. Superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) are the most sensitive magnetic field detectors. Up to a few hundreds of SQUIDs are nowdays used in modern whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) systems. They allow tracking brain activation with a superior temporal resolution of milliseconds, which is a quintessential condition for the monitoring of brain dynamics and the understanding of information processing in the human brain. We introduce the prerequisites of MEG data acquisition and briefly review two established methods of biomagnetic signal processing: The concept of signal averaging, and the subsequent source identification as a solution of the biomagnetic inverse problem. Beside these standard techniques, we discuss advanced methods for signal processing in MEG, which take into account the frequency content of the recorded signal. We briefly refer to the prospects of Fourier analysis and wavelet transform in MEG data analysis, and suggest matching pursuit as a promising tool for signal decomposition and reconstruction with high resolution in time-frequency plane.
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