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Towards a clinical MEG system: theoretical and practical insights into the use of optically pumped magnetometers

This research project is in competition for funding with one or more projects available across the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Usually the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding. Find out more information about the DTP and how to apply.

In this project, you will perform a detailed analysis of Optically Pumped Magnetometers (OPMs) for measuring magnetic brain signals.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that allows characterisation of human brain electrophysiology by measuring magnetic fields generated by neural currents. Since its invention in 1968, MEG has shown its value for understanding brain function in health and disease, providing unique insights into neurophysiological processes.


One of the major limitations of MEG is the requirement of a very expensive and bulky system that has constrained its use to research-only environments.

In 2018, researchers from the UK presented a revolutionary technology to tackle these limitations, making wearable MEG sensors a reality. These sensors, labelled Optically Pumped Magnetometers (OPMs), rely on a radically different principle for measuring magnetic fields without the need of a cryogenic-cooling system. Additionally, OPMs can be placed directly on the scalp, enhancing the signal-to-noise-ratio by 5-10 times.

This breakthrough in the field has generated great expectations to move MEG to the clinical practice. However, there are plenty technical challenges that need immediate attention, including sensor characterisation, study of the compatibility with other electrophysiological modalities [as electroencephalography (EEG)], and the analysis of noise properties.

Project aims and methods

The research plan has four stages to be completed in 3.5 years:

  • Literature search, training in electromagnetic brain signals, standard MEG acquisition, and the use of OPMs.
  • Comparison between OPMs and standard (SQUID) sensors.
  • Design of optimal sensor positioning standards and analysis of compatibility with EEG.
  • Practical demonstrations, reporting, and viva.

Those with an existing background in neurophysiology and MEG will be able to move into stage two sooner.

You will have access to the MEG suite in Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), as well as state-of-the-art OPMs recently acquired by the supervisory team (funded by EPSRC).


Leandro Beltrachini

Dr Leandro Beltrachini

Brain Imaging Group

+44 (0)29 2251 0274

Yr Athro Krishna Singh


+44(0)29 2087 4690

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