KIT-Macquarie Brain Research (MEG) Laboratory
Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a technique for measuring and visualizing the working human brain. MEG measurements allow us to study how the brain is able to produce the contents and processes of the mind - sensations and perceptions, language, cognition, and emotions. It also allows us to study how these mental processes may be disrupted when the brain fails to function normally.
Read more about MEG
Importantly, MEG measures brain activity in a way that has no effect on the brain or the body. The MEG instrument works using highly sensitive detectors that measure the magnetic signals naturally produced by the human brain and body. It works like a very sensitive microphone, which is a device that detects sounds but does not produce sounds or signals of its own. Since the MEG gives off no signal or field of any kind, it's not known to cause any harm.
Since MEG is completely safe it is uniquely suitable for routine study of human brain function in adults and children. The KIT-Macquarie Brain Research Laboratory is currently the only MEG facility in the Southern Hemisphere and has both an adult MEG system and a second system customized for pre-school children. Additionally, we have a prototype system developed for use with hearing aid devices, including cochlear implants.
We carry out research on human brain function in (1) normal adults; (2) adults with neurological or psychiatric disorders; (3) normally developing children; (4) children with developmental disorders.
You are welcome to download this poster of the timeline of the development of this research facility.
Brain scans can be scary, so the MEG simulator is designed to put kids at ease before their scan. As part of their 'mission', the mini-astronauts listen to instructions from ground control and receive feedback if their heads move too much. This prepares them for the bigger machine and ensures accurate results.
Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) and Yokogawa Electric Corporation
The MEG laboratory is the KIT-Macquarie Brain Research Lab, in recognition of the collaboration between Macquarie University and the Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT), Japan. KIT and Yokogawa Electric Corporation have generously assisted us in designing a state-of-the-art presentation and analysis system for MEG-related studies using auditory and visual stimulus materials, and integrating data analysis from MEG with those from EEG, fMRI and eye-movement recording.
Hearing CRC and Cochlear Limited
With Macquarie University's partner hearing organisations, including The Hearing CRC and Cochlear Limited, we have a third MEG system to assist in the rehabilitation of young children who receive cochlear implants. Recipients of a cochlear implant receive extensive rehabilitation to recognize the sounds of speech. Hearing is assessed by asking the cochlear implant recipient to report their subjective impressions of sounds. This is a difficult and frustrating process for adults, and children younger than 3 or 4 cannot perform this feat at all. Yet cochlear implants are being fitted to babies as young as 3 months old. To overcome these difficulties, we have developed the world's first measurement system using MEG to provide objective measures of how recipients of a cochlear implant, including very young children, hear the sounds of speech.
Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU)
An international collaboration between the Macquarie University and Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) is studying the question: Do pre-school children learning different languages know universal properties of language? To answer this, researchers from these two universities have tested 4 year old English and Mandarin speaking children using MEG. BLCU is currently establishing their own MEG facility, with an adult and a child system, in collaboration with KIT.
The Department of Cognitive Science currently manages three MEG systems, a 160 channel system for adults, a 108 channel system for children, and a system designed for patients with cochlear implants or hearing devices.
Read More on our Three MEG Systems
Our adult and child MEG systems are housed in a magnetically shielded room or MSR. It consists of three layers of permalloy (an alloy of iron and zinc), and one layer of copper. The room frame is made of aluminium. The Hearing MEG system is housed in a second MSR. These MSRs were built by Japanese specialist companies: Fuhijira Co. Ltd and Ohtama Co. Ltd. With the addition of the KIT child MEG system, this lab was the first in the world to house two MEG systems inside the same magnetically shielded room. Since moving to the Australian Hearing Hub in 2013, the lab now houses three custom built MEG systems:
1. KIT/Macquarie MEG160 MEG System (Adult)
In 2006, we installed a 160-channel MEG system, funded by an ARC Linkage-Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities Grant.
H. Kado, M. Higuchi, M. Shimogawara, Y. Haruta, Y. Adachi, J. Kawai, H. Ogata, G. Uehera. (1999) Magnetoencephalogram systems developed at KIT.IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, Vol 9 (2), 4057-4062.
3. KIT/Macquarie 128-Channel MEG System (Child)
In 2008, we installed an 80-channel MEG system, specially designed by Kanazawa Institute of Technology AEL and Yokogawa to work with children funded by an ARC Linkage Industrial Partner Grant. In 2013, KIT upgraded the system and added 48 additional channels. In 2014, we installed a Real Time Head Movement System (ReTHM), so that errors from head movements can be cancelled out.
3. KIT/Macquarie Hearing MEG System
In 2013, we installed a custom built MEG system, specially designed by AEL to investigate brain function in patients with cochlear impants and hearing devices. This was funded in collboration with Macquarie University, and The HEARing CRC, including Cochlear Limited.
Helium Recovery System
In 2013, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, in collaboration with CSIRO, installed a helium recovery system. This project developed a system to recover the helium gas that boils off during MEG operation, and converts the gas back into liquid helium. This project received funding from the New South Wales Science Leveraging Fund, along with funding for the CCD from Macquarie University.
We currently use a Brain Products 63 channel MEG-compatible EEG system, with MEG-compatible 63 channel Fast 'n' Easy EEG caps from EASYCAP.
We have BrainProducts MEG-compatible polygraphic system with eight channels of EMG and eight polygraphic channels (GSR, respiration, etc.).
We have an Eyelink 1000 remote MEG-compatible eyetracker system.
Both the Child and Adult systems use a Epson EB-G7400U projector which allows for resolutions up to 1920x1200 and contrast up to 2000:1 to be projected with a brightness of 5500 Lumens. This unit also allows for the adjustment of both vertical and horizontal keystoning.
Auditory stimuli are delivered by a set of Etymotics E30 earphones. We also have a tubephone system custom designed by National Acoustics Laboratory for language research with a frequency response greater than 9 kHz. (Raicevich, G, Burwood, E, Dillon, H, Johnson, B, Crain, S (2010). Wide band pneumatic sound system for MEG. Proceedings of 20th International Congress on Acoustics, ICA 2010, Sydney, Australia, 23-27 August 2010.)
Simulator and Playroom
We have a MEG simulator room and dedicated playroom for our child participants and any siblings that may come along on the day. This room is also available for parents to use while waiting for their child to finish testing.
Conducting a study with MEG
All projects to be conducted using one of the magnetoencephaolgraphy machines are considerd by the MEG Executive Committee and applications are provided with feedback on their proposed project. Please download the MEG project proposal form and send it to Associate Professor Paul Sowman for consideration.
Steps to beginning a MEG study
- Attend a MEG information and induction session (Run quarterly)
- Develop your proposal using the MEG project proposal form (students need a supervisor with MEG experience)
- Send MEG project proposal form to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Project proposal discussed by MEG executive committee for approval or suggestion (held monthly)
- Once approved, a unique study number will be assigned for your project.
- Contact the Technical Officer to begin your project: email@example.com
Project Proposal submission dates for 2017
- 01 March 2017
- 29 March 2017
- 26 April 2017
- 8 May 2017
- 7 June 2017
- 26 July 2017
- 23 August 2017
- 20 September 2017
- 18 October 2017
- 15 November 2017
- 13 December 2017
Information for Parents
The child MEG system is a completely safe and non-invasive way to measure brain activity.You might like to read about MEG with your child in this kids-friendly science article written by Dr Jon Brock and Dr Paul Sowman:
MEG for Kids: Listening to Your Brain with Super-Cool SQUIDs. Frontiers for Young Minds, 2:10. doi: 10.3389/frym.2014.00010
Below gives further information about the system.
Why is the Child MEG important?
MEG measures the magnetic fields generated by the brain whenever information is processed. The brain's magnetic fields are 100 million times smaller than the magnetic field of the earth -- so it is like trying to measure the footsteps of an ant, at a rock concert. Extremely sensitive sensors are used to measure these tiny magnetic fields. We can therefore see how a child's brain responds when s/he is reading, looking at pictures or listening to real words vs non-words.
The child MEG system allows researchers to explore phenomenon such as language acquisition and auditory processing in children who are too young to participate in behavioural studies. This opens up a whole new world for researchers as information can now be gathered at the earlier stages of development.
MEG Space Adventure, a child friendly experience
In order to make the child MEG experience as child friendly as possible we have created the idea of an MEG space adventure. The child MEG system is the space ship that will take your child to a strange planet where they might get to go on a treasure hunt or watch some cartoons. Their mission is to listen to the instructions from ground control through the special earphones within the space ship.
There is enough room in the MSR (the magnetically shielded room where both the adult and child MEG systems are housed) for you to stay with your child the entire time. We have cameras in the room so we can see inside at all times as well as a microphone so we can communicate with you throughout the whole process. We have developed work booklets that contain activities and list the steps involved both for you and your child's benefit. We also have prizes and certificates given out to each child that participates to show that they are a qualified MEG astronaut.
We take time to get to know your child before we proceed with the study. We play games and let you and your child look around the lab so that you both feel comfortable.
Your child can watch our Kermit the frog puppet go through all of the steps before they do.
You can go inside the shielded room with your child at the time of testing. One of our researchers will stay inside the room to play the games with your child, too. If you prefer, you can stay outside and watch and talk to your child while we are playing with them inside the shielded room.
What's involved if my child takes part?
All of our studies are completely voluntary. If you are interested in taking part the first step is to contact us. We can answer any of your questions and arrange a time for you to come to the lab.
The purpose of the first visit is so that you and your child can become familiar with the researchers and the equipment we use. We do this through free play and a variety of activities. If you then decide to take part we will ask you to come back again so that we can begin the actual experiment. You will be paid for each visit and you may pull out of participation at any time without providing us with a reason.
Please note that any magnetic materials on your child's clothing or body (eg. hair clips, glittery clothing, wrist watches) must be removed prior to the study commencing. If magnetic material is permanently fixed to your child’s body (eg. Plates, screws, dental work) then unfortunately they are not eligible to participate in a study using MEG.
As MEG requires the participant to lie in an enclosed room we advise people who experience claustrophobia not to take part in an MEG study.
MEG Executive Committee
- Dr Paul Sowman, Chair
- Professor Stephen Crain / Dr Lisa Yen, CCD Representative
- Dr Jon Brock (until June 2017)
- Associate Professor Thomas Carlson
- Dr Wei He
- Dr Stan Tarnavskii, Senior Scientific Advisor
- Elisabeth Stylianou, Technical Officer MEG
For any questions regarding MEG, please contact our Technical Officer: