This week we had a double dose of excursions taking place in Otaniemi and then in Helsinki. Instead of our Monday morning lecture, we visited Aalto NeuroImaging (ANI) research infrastructure in Otakaari 5. The class was divided into three groups which rotated around the different facilities in the building. Firstly, we saw the MRI system which included and MRI scanner and RF-coils. There, one thing surprised me when we were shown the health and safety checklist that all have to fill before going in the MRI scanner: a tattoo meant that someone might not be allowed in scanner. Since I did not know much about tattoos, I was later explained that some tattoo inks contain metals, which could cause serious damage to the skin when exposed to the magnetic field of the MRI scanner.
Secondly, our group moved to the Aalto Behavioral Laboratory (ABL). This was a facility that had the space and equipment for carrying out studies focusing on behavioral research. Different responses like eye movement, EEG and more can be recorded there. As a demonstration, we saw how eye movement on a computer screen could be visualised and tracked using special devices (Eye Tracking systems) placed on the head and the eyes. I myself got to try some cool specs which recorded my eye movement and pointed out where my eyes were focusing. The lab had two rooms that allowed controlling certain conditions (for e.g. displaying something on a computer screen or introducing sound stimulus) and recording responses from outside these rooms.
The third facility we visited was Aalto TMS (for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). There they have neuronavigated transcranial magnetic stimulation systems combined with electroencephalogram (EEG) mapping. This setup allows not only neuroimaging but also mapping stimulus responses simultaneously. The benefit of having this in the same building as the MRI scanner is that a person’s brain can first be scanned and then the equipment used for magnetic stimulation and mapping responses can be co-registered using the brain scans.
The second excursion of the week was in Sooma Oy in Helsinki. It is a medical device company specialising in non-invasive brain stimulation devices used for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. They do this using transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS). They have developed a tool/instrument which allows for transcranial magnetic fields to be simulated at specific parts of the brain, bringing a balance/restoring the level of neurotransmitters in affected areas in the brain. The interesting thing was to discover the history of this treatment type, which dates back to thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians and Romans used electric fish like Torpedo to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders. Epilepsy, headaches and depression were treated by placing a live fish on top of the affected area, curing the disorder or alleviating it. From another perspective it was also interesting to find out that this is the only device that a psychiatrist was able to use and experience themselves before suggesting it to patient.
Torpedo (Electric ray)
Sooma Oy medical device