How to See Inside a Brain in Motion

A new mobile EEG system now lets researchers probe the brain function while people move around naturally.

By Eliza Strickland|Friday, June 05, 2009

Existing brain-imaging techniques are powerful, but they work only when the subject is holding perfectly still. Now University of California at San Diego cognitive neuroscientist Scott Makeig has created a mobile system using electroencephalography, or EEG, that can isolate and record brain activity and its relationship to the body while the wearer moves around naturally.

Software integrates the brain and body data to reveal which parts of the brain drive each motion. Until now, “no one has really looked at the brain dynamics underlying ordinary activities, because no one has had the technology and the analysis software,” Makeig says. Early experiments have already shown that a surprisingly large portion of the cerebral cortex is engaged in even the simplest actions, such as reaching out to touch an object.

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