Dr. Andrew Zillgitt, with a team of physicians at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, views the results of advanced neuroimaging technology called magnetoencephalography, or MEG. The noninvasive technique measures and produces images of brain activity and function.

Dr. Andrew Zillgitt, with a team of physicians at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, views the results of advanced neuroimaging technology called magnetoencephalography, or MEG. The noninvasive technique measures and produces images of brain activity and function.

Photo provided by Bob Ortlieb


Beaumont secures advanced brain mapping technology

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Royal Oak Review | Published July 30, 2021

 Beaumont’s magnetoencephalography system is the first such system installed in the U.S. by manufacturer Ricoh, whose MEG technology originated in Japan, according to Beaumont Hospital.

Beaumont’s magnetoencephalography system is the first such system installed in the U.S. by manufacturer Ricoh, whose MEG technology originated in Japan, according to Beaumont Hospital.

Photo provided by Bob Ortlieb

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ROYAL OAK — As of press time, Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital doctors had conducted 13 studies so far using advanced brain imaging technology called MEG, or magnetoencephalography.

The high-tech tool helps epileptologists and neurosurgeons diagnose and treat epilepsy and brain tumors in children and adults. The noninvasive technique does not expose patients to radiation while processing images of brain activity and function.

Specialists use the scans to look for abnormalities in brain waves in order to plan for surgery. For those with epilepsy, a MEG scan can pinpoint where seizures occur within a millimeter, according to a press release.

The technology uses superconducting quantum interference device sensors to measure the weak magnetic fields generated by neurons in the brain. Dr. Andrew Zillgitt, who directs Beaumont’s level 4 adult epilepsy and MEG programs, said the sensors magnify the magnetic flux being recorded and transfer it to an image.

“It’s very sensitive. I’ve been really pleased with the recordings. There’s not a lot of noise,” he said. “It can see things that other tests might not see that clearly, and we’ve already seen that in a couple of patients.”

He said the use of the technology is “exciting” and provides valuable information for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. While not new technology, he said it is “underutilized and still not widely available.”

The actual machine looks like a box in a corner of a room. Patients lie flat on a bed with their head inside the scanner and stay still throughout the study. Zillgitt said his team prefers patients to be asleep during the process.

“For the most part, when patients are asleep, there are more abnormal brain waves than when they’re awake, and that can be helpful,” he said. “MEG provides us more information, helping us decide whether surgery is a viable option and, if so, how to do the surgery in the safest manner possible for each individual patient.”

Dr. Daniel Arndt, chief of pediatric neurology and director of Beaumont’s pediatric epilepsy program, said the health system is one of three health systems in Michigan with the MEG technology. The other two are Henry Ford Health System and Spectrum Health.

“We can learn so much about a patient’s brain activity, specifically where motor, hearing, vision, sensory and language functions are located, all without surgery,” Arndt said in a prepared statement. “Its ability to localize the origin of seizures helps us plan the placement of depth electrodes in the brain using ROSA robot technology in stereo-EEG evaluations for pediatric and adult epilepsy surgery candidates.”

Zillgitt said his team began looking into purchasing the MEG technology in May 2018. He described the process for approval for funding as “long,” and initial construction, which began March 10, 2020, had to be shut down after three days due to the pandemic lockdowns.

“It didn’t really restart in full-swing until August of 2020, and then with more COVID delays, we didn’t complete construction and installation of the unit until late April of 2021,” he said. “We started doing the first clinical cases in June of 2021.”

The budget for the project was $3.4 million, Zillgitt said, and Beaumont funded it through a capital request. In the future, however, he said he hopes to have more philanthropic means for funding.

While the MEG technology is currently being used for clinical purposes, Zillgitt said he hopes to expand the program to include full network research within the brain.

According to the release, ongoing research with MEG involves other neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, traumatic brain injury and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders, caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Nearly 109,000 Michigan residents have epilepsy — including 13,600 children — and of those, a third have drug-resistant epilepsy, according to the release.

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