The sensor measures weak magnetic signals in the brain. (Credit: University of Birmingham)

A new sensor measures weak magnetic signals in the brain, which has the potential to increase the understanding of connectivity in the brain and detect signs of traumatic brain injury, dementia, and schizophrenia. The optically pumped magnetometer (OPM) sensor uses polarized light to detect changes in the orientation of the spin of atoms when they are exposed to a magnetic field.

The new sensor is more robust in detecting the brain signals and distinguishing them from background magnetic noise compared to commercially available sensors. The research team was also able to reduce the sensor size by removing the laser from the sensor head and made further adjustments to decrease the number of electronic components in a move that will reduce interference between sensors.

The researchers are seeking commercial and research partnerships that will lead to better diagnostics for neurological injury, neurological disorders such as dementia, and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

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