About MEG - a facility of Aston Brain Centre - part of Aston University in central Birmingham, UK

Ensure you're familiar with the MEG scan procedure before you visit Aston University's facilities:
MEG scanner
MEG scanner

What is MEG?

Your brain works through a series of tiny electrical signals, which are often called "brain waves" or "brain activity". MEG, or MagnetoEncephaloGraphy is non invasive and uses a machine which sits outside the head to measure brain activity and produce an 'activity map' of this activity.

The procedure is entirely painless and has no known side effects. You won’t feel any differently afterwards and you won’t need to change your activities or rest after your scan. 

What sort of information does MEG provide?

People have MEG scans for many different reasons. They can help answer questions such as:

  1. What activity is the brain producing and where in the brain does it come from? For example, MEG can be used to measure brain activity associated with relaxation, migraine or epilepsy.
  2. Which part of the brain undertakes different tasks? For example, MEG can determine exactly which bit of your brain controls actions such as speaking or moving arms and legs.
  3. How does the brain work?MEG researchers are working to develop their understanding of the way in which the brain functions, both normally and when something goes wrong.

I had an MRI done, do I need a MEG scan as well?

In some cases, yes, as MEG and MRI tell you different things about the brain. An MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Image) only gives you information about the structure of the brain and nothing about its functioning. A MEG scan, on the other hand, can be used to tell you the locations in the brain that were active during a certain task and also at what point in time they were active. 

Do I need to do anything before my MEG scan?

Generally, you do not need to do anything before your scan - you can eat, drink and go about your daily routine as normal.

On the day - you should dress in comfortable clothes. Before your scan you will be asked to remove any metal objects you are wearing - this is because metal objects interfere with the MEG machine. These would include watches, coins, credit cards, jewelry, glasses and clothes that contain metal (e.g. tops with zips, bras). It is therefore a good idea to avoid wearing any clothes that contain metal and if you have contact lenses wear them instead of your glasses. If you are on medication, you should continue to take it as normal UNLESS your doctor has told you not to. If you have a mobile phone, you should turn it off when you arrive at the MEG unit, as it also interferes with the MEG scanner. 

Can you briefly describe the recording procedure?

  • When you arrive, one of the MEG team will meet you, explain what will happen and answer any questions you have
  • You will  have three coils (placed on a Velcro headband) attached to your head - these are used to determine exactly where your head is in the scanner whilst your brain activity is recorded
  • You will then be taken into the MEG room. In the MEG room you will sit on a chair, which moves you up slightly so that the top of your head is in the MEG helmet. You will be told when the scan starts and to keep very still during the scan (a cushion might be put around your head to help you keep still). You may be asked to perform a task while you are being scanned, such as tapping your fingers, or looking at pictures
  • After your scan you will leave the MEG room and you will sit on a chair while a pen is traced around your head. This will allow us to produce an accurate computer model of the shape of your head which, when compared to an MRI scan, will allow us to compare brain activity with the structure of your brain. 

Can I get the results immediately?

Your brain waves are directly displayed on a computer screen whilst you're in the MEG scanner. You can ask the technician if you can view them when the recording has finished. However, an in-depth analysis of your brain waves and the procedures that we use to find out which areas in the brain were active is very time-consuming, so you won’t be given any results on the day. For patients, the results will be sent to their doctor, who will contact them when they are ready. If your MEG scan was for research only, then the scan will be used as part of a research project and the results will be published in a scientific journal.