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Brain-scanning helmet helps track children in motion

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Scientists have used a modified bike helmet to create a device that can monitor brain activity in children in realtime.

The technology may eventually be used on patients with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and epilepsy, they reported Tuesday in Nature Communications.

Researchers inserted a wearable magnetoencephalography (MEG) device into a standard bike helmet, and successfully recorded the brain’s response to maternal touch in children aged two to five.

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With standard equipment, it is very difficult to scan children under the age of eight, said Matthew Brookes, who worked on the device and authored the report.

“This is because in younger children, their heads are too small to fit the scanner properly and that means loss of data quality,” he told AFP.

“In addition younger subjects tend to move more.”

The device is equipped with small, lightweight sensors that prevent the scan from being affected by head movement.

Children can wear replicas of the helmet while at home to reduce anxiety during the scanning, the researchers said.

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The technology isn’t limited to children.

Brookes and his colleagues used larger versions of the device to record brain activity on a teenager playing video games, and a 24-year-old playing the ukelele.

Brookes said his colleagues at University College London were working on the clinical use of the MEG device — including diagnosis and surgical mapping — for adults and children with epilepsy.

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He is hopeful that applications can be expanded to other conditions, such as brain injury, mental health and dementia.

“Obviously at the moment it remains nascent technology and is in the hands of clinical researchers. However, we hope that it will be used to scan patients within two to three years,” Brookes said.

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Image Oxford JR Hospital/AFP/File / HO


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Ex-cops indicted in fatal shooting of Black woman and ‘public torture’ of Black man in separate incidents

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Two former Mississippi police officers were indicted in the brutal beating of a Black motorist, and one of them was also charged in an unrelated fatal shooting.

Wade Robertson, 28, and Bryce Gilbert, 27, were charged with aggravated assault in the 2018 beating of James Barnett, and Robertson was also charged with manslaughter in the 2019 shooting death of Dominique Henry, reported The Laurel Leader-Call.

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Quarantine, racial strife, Trump have Michelle Obama feeling down

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama said she is suffering from "low-grade depression" from coronavirus quarantine, racial strife in the United States and the "hypocrisy" of the Trump administration.

Obama made the remarks in the latest episode of "The Michelle Obama Podcast" released on Spotify on Wednesday.

"I'm waking up in the middle of the night because I'm worrying about something or there's a heaviness," the 56-year-old former First Lady said.

"I try to make sure I get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine, where I just have felt too low," she said.

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Another watchdog at US State Department abruptly gone

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The internal watchdog looking into accusations against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly quit Wednesday, just months after his predecessor was fired.

The State Department's acting inspector general, Stephen Akard, is a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence and his installation in May had widely been seen as a way to keep a friendly figure in the role.

Akard informed colleagues that he is "returning to the private sector after years of public service," a State Department spokesperson said.

"We appreciate his dedication to the Department and to our country."

But Akard's departure comes just as his office finalizes a report on Pompeo's controversial decision to bypass Congress to sell $8.1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies.

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