Swinburne is unique in Australia and New Zealand. We host the only single-site neuroimaging facility that offers magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
MEG allows us to measure the brain at the speed at which neural activity occurs. That's in the order of milliseconds.
By contrast, it takes seconds for blood to flow in the brain. This slower speed limits even the fastest MRI scanners.
MEG’s temporal precision is important as it lets us investigate single, rapid processes. This is crucial when we’re looking at the timing of thousands of coordinated processes.
These steps must occur in exactly the right sequence for normal brain function. Compare this with how a car engine’s fuel injection system works.
A car engine needs to fire each cylinder rapidly. The fuel injection system does this at a precise moment, relative to the other cylinders. When this timing degrades, severe damage can result.
The human brain is like an engine with hundreds of thousands of cylinders, all in harmony with one another.
Our MEG scanner provides a unique means to examine changes in neural activity and timing. These could underpin conditions such as:
- traumatic brain injury
In addition, MEG promises to give new insights into developmental conditions like:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Swinburne Neuroimaging research is already creating real impact on people's lives. And we've barely started.
Case study: Epilepsy management
Swinburne researchers have partnered with St Vincent’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne. Together, we’re on track to lead a real revolution in epilepsy management.
We can now safely isolate the brain regions that trigger epileptic seizures in certain patients. The technique works on those with refractory epilepsy, where drugs can’t control the seizures.
It took 5 years to refine insights for this unique approach. Our state-of-the-art magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanning facility played a crucial part in enabling this success.
This remarkable technique has already made a big difference to 25 patients. It has improved diagnosis in difficult cases and has even allowed some patients, who were previously considered unsuitable for surgery, to go on to have a successful operation. With this method, 8 patients were even completely spared the added risks from traditional invasive intracranial monitoring.
Our collaborative work promises to revolutionise the clinical management of epilepsy in Australia. We aim to collect data from a larger group of patients in an effort to provide evidence for a Medicare rebate.
We'd like all Australians affected by this severe form of epilepsy to have access to the technique.
Case study: Age-related decline in mental function
We tend to think that as people age everything slows down. This includes our actions, thoughts, and abilities to make decisions.
Yet we all know people who seem to defy the march of time. They remain physically and mentally agile well into their later years.
What gives these people their advantage? And how might understanding how their brains manage to stay in the fast lane help us devise interventions and treatments for others?
Knowing the answers to these questions could help Australians who suffer more severe age-related decline in mental function.
At Swinburne Neuroimaging, researchers are studying these important issues from multiple angles. They’re looking at how our diet and exercise could give us greater mental longevity.
They're working out how interventions in later life can change the way we communicate information and coordinate it across our brains, keeping us up to speed.