Signal processing in magnetoencephalography

Methods. 2001 Oct;25(2):249-71. doi: 10.1006/meth.2001.1238.


The subject of this article is detection of brain magnetic fields, or magnetoencephalography (MEG). The brain fields are many orders of magnitude smaller than the environmental magnetic noise and their measurement represent a significant metrological challenge. The only detectors capable of resolving such small fields and at the same time handling the large dynamic range of the environmental noise are superconducting quantum interference devices (or SQUIDs). The SQUIDs are coupled to the brain magnetic fields using combinations of superconducting coils called flux transformers (primary sensors). The environmental noise is attenuated by a combination of shielding, primary sensor geometry, and synthetic methods. One of the most successful synthetic methods for noise elimination is synthetic higher-order gradiometers. How the gradiometers can be synthesized is shown and examples of their noise cancellation effectiveness are given. The MEG signals measured on the scalp surface must be interpreted and converted into information about the distribution of currents within the brain. This task is complicated by the fact that such inversion is nonunique. Additional mathematical simplifications, constraints, or assumptions must be employed to obtain useful source images. Methods for the interpretation of the MEG signals include the popular point current dipole, minimum norm methods, spatial filtering, beamformers, MUSIC, and Bayesian techniques. The use of synthetic aperture magnetometry (a class of beamformers) is illustrated in examples of interictal epileptic spiking and voluntary hand-motor activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetoencephalography / instrumentation
  • Magnetoencephalography / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Software