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McGovern Institute honors inventor of brain scan technology

David Cohen honored for his invention of magnetoencephalography.
Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute, presents David Cohen with a plaque commemorating the 40th anniversary of the invention of MEG.
Caption:
Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute, presents David Cohen with a plaque commemorating the 40th anniversary of the invention of MEG.
Credits:
Photo: Justin Knight
David Cohen, inventor of MEG, stands in front of the original shielded room that he built at MIT's Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory in 1969.
Caption:
David Cohen, inventor of MEG, stands in front of the original shielded room that he built at MIT's Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory in 1969.
Credits:
Photo courtesy of David Cohen

David Cohen, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, was honored by the McGovern Institute for Brain Research for his invention of magnetoencephalography (MEG), a powerful and noninvasive method for measuring human brain activity. Cohen's pioneering work was conducted in the early 1970s at MIT's Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory.

On arriving at the Bitter Lab in 1969, Cohen designed and built a five-layer shielded room in which he could search for the tiny magnetic signals that were predicted to emanate from the human body. Taking advantage of the then-recently developed superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID), whose sensitivity far exceeded that of previous detectors, Cohen was able to record magnetic signals from both the heart and the brain. The latter results were reported in a landmark 1972 paper in Science that launched the field of MEG.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of this work, and to mark the opening of a new MEG lab at MIT, Cohen was invited to give a talk at the McGovern Institute's annual symposium, which featured MEG and its applications to cognitive neuroscience. Cohen's lecture can be viewed on the McGovern Institute website, along with other talks from the symposium, held on April 27.

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