The Future of EEG Brain Mapping

The use of computers to process brain signals opens up an infinite number of ways of extracting useful information. Once the digitized EEG channels are stored into the computer's memory, powerful mathematical techniques can be developed to unravel the meaning of its apparently random wigglings.

One of them, seen in this picture, is called spectral analysis. It is a mathematical technique, developed by a French scientist called Pierre Fourier, at the turn of the last century, which is able to show the frequency components of a wave (i.e., how much of each of the pure waves alpha, beta, theta, delta, etc.) are present and mixed in a single channel recording). What you see here is a tridimensional diagram showing the time axis from left to right, the frequency component orthogonal to it, and the intensity in microvolts on the vertical axis. A color scale is used to differentiate amplitudes.

Another recent development is the use of powerful graphical processing software to render three-dimensional reconstructions of the head and of the brain, where the electrical activity parameters recorded in the EEG brain topography are depicted as 3D color maps. Dynamic video animations can be produced, showing the alterations of electrical activity as a function of time.

The future of quantitative EEG for clinical applications lies, undoubtedly, in the coupling of digital methods of signal analysis and of image processing. In this picture, what you see is the combination of two remarkable devices: the magnetic resonance scanner (MRI), which produces anatomical or functional images of the brain with great detail and clarity, and the magnetoencephalograph (MEG). The MEG is capable of recording minute alterations in the electromagnetic field, generated by the electrical activity of neurons deep within the brain. In order to do this, it uses a magnetic pick-up coil immersed into liquid helium, named SQUID, thus achieving the phenomenon of electrical superconductivity. The resulting record is superimposed upon the anatomical image generated by the MRI scanner.

In this figure, points of altered electrical activity (epileptic areas) are shown as colored circles, placed over the areas where the MEG apparatus was able to determine its location.

The increased sophistication and number of resources available on computerized EEG systems and of medical imaging processing will continue to evolve. Quantitative, high resolution EEG has a bright future as a tool in the medical diagnostic work-up.

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From: EEG Brain Mapping
Author: Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD
In: Brain & Mind Magazine, August/September 1997.

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