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In both of these techniques, the sensors do not touch the body. MCG can be used in fetal studies, and is probably more sensitive than echocardiography. MCG also looks at the heart’s electrical activity whose voltage output is too small to be recorded by surface electrodes as in EKG. It has the potential of being a rapid scan for early diagnosis of cardiac ischemia (obstruction of blood flow to the heart) or problems with the fetus.

MEG can be used to identify abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that produce weak magnetic signals. Therefore, it looks at brain activity, not just brain structure. It has been used for studies of Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. Advances in instrumentation to measure very small magnetic fields have allowed these two techniques to be used more in recent years. What is used is a sensor called a SQUID, for superconducting quantum interference device. This operates at liquid helium temperatures and can measure magnetic fields thousands of times smaller than the Earth’s.

Finally, there is a burgeoning market for magnetic cures in which magnets are applied in a variety of ways to the body, from magnetic bracelets to magnetic mattresses. The best that can be said for such practices is that they are apparently harmless, unless the magnets get close to the patient’s computer or magnetic storage disks. Claims are made for a broad spectrum of benefits from cleansing the blood to giving the patient more energy, but clinical studies have not verified these claims, nor is there an identifiable mechanism by which such benefits might occur.

Phet explorations: magnet and compass

Ever wonder how a compass worked to point you to the Arctic? Explore the interactions between a compass and bar magnet, and then add the Earth and find the surprising answer! Vary the magnet's strength, and see how things change both inside and outside. Use the field meter to measure how the magnetic field changes.

Magnet and Compass

Section summary

  • Crossed (perpendicular) electric and magnetic fields act as a velocity filter, giving equal and opposite forces on any charge with velocity perpendicular to the fields and of magnitude
    v = E B . size 12{v= { {E} over {B} } "." } {}

Conceptual questions

Measurements of the weak and fluctuating magnetic fields associated with brain activity are called magnetoencephalograms (MEGs). Do the brain’s magnetic fields imply coordinated or uncoordinated nerve impulses? Explain.

Discuss the possibility that a Hall voltage would be generated on the moving heart of a patient during MRI imaging. Also discuss the same effect on the wires of a pacemaker. (The fact that patients with pacemakers are not given MRIs is significant.)

A patient in an MRI unit turns his head quickly to one side and experiences momentary dizziness and a strange taste in his mouth. Discuss the possible causes.

You are told that in a certain region there is either a uniform electric or magnetic field. What measurement or observation could you make to determine the type? (Ignore the Earth’s magnetic field.)

Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, Introductory physics - for kpu phys 1100 (2015 edition). OpenStax CNX. May 30, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11588/1.13
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