Mobile brain scanner grants PET patients freedom of movement

19 May 2017

Co-developers Stan Majewski and Julie Brefczynski-Lewis display a mockup of their device at a scientific conference (source:

A research team has designed a device for studying human interaction, dementia, movement disorders, and more.

Patients undergoing a positron emission tomography (PET) scan in today’s machines must lie completely still. Because of this, scientists cannot use the scanners to unearth links between movement and brain activity. What goes on 'up there', when we nod in agreement or shake hands? How are the brains of people struggling to walk after a stroke different from those who can?

Tackling these questions, the wearable Ambulatory Microdose Positron Emission Tomography scanner could launch new psychological and clinical studies on how the brain functions when affected by diseases from epilepsy to addiction, and during ordinary and dysfunctional social interactions.

“There are so many possibilities,” said Neuroscientist Julie Brefczynski-Lewis. “Scientists could use AMPET to study Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injuries, or even our sense of balance. We want to push the limits of imaging mobility with this device.”

The idea was sparked by a scanner developed for studying rats, a project started in 2002.

From rats to hats

“A mobile brain imaging tool has applications in psychology research and clinical uses,” said Physicist Stan Majewski. “You could do bedside imaging of epilepsy, for example, and watch what happens in the brain during a seizure.”

The team hopes to start developing a full-brain scanner soon: one that covers the entire head.

Research led by Neuroscientist Julie Brefczynski-Lewis and Physicist Stan Majewski.
Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory

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