When Tracking Brain Activity, Timing Can Be Key

Published on in CHOP in the Media

Traditional tools for studying the brain, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can capture incredible details about the structure and function of the brain. But they fail to catch the fleeting fluctuations in neuronal activity that underlie our thoughts, feelings and behavior. 

A relatively new imaging technique called magnetoencephalography (also known as MEG or “brainwave scanning”) characterizes not just what is happening in the brain, but also where and when. The ability of MEG to multitask and capture rapid, fleeting brain changes makes it ideally suited for studying complex behavioral conditions such as autism spectrum disorder.

MEG can focus on the brain’s automatic responses to sensory experiences, such as reaction to sound, to see how the signals travel through the brain. It can identify disruptions or delays in these signals and allow researchers to explore how they differ in the brains of patients with autism.

Timothy Roberts, PhD, vice-chair of research for the Department of Radiology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, authored an article for Spectrum News where he discusses the potential of MEG and how it can work with other brain imaging techniques to help researchers better understand how the brain works in patients with autism and what that means for diagnosis and treatment.

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