High-tech helmet could be a game changer.

Scientists have shrunk a brain scanner down from a half-tonne monolith and put it in a bike helmet, where it measured the brain activity of a woman playing the ukulele.

The high-tech helmet looks cool and weighs only 400 grams.

That makes it easier to study brain development in young children who used to have to be sedated to undergo the intimidating scans. It also opens a door to new understanding of childhood conditions such as epilepsy and autism.

On top of that, the new wearable tech makes it feasible to scan people who are moving – impossible with older machines that required perfect stillness to avoid image artefacts.

The technique is called magnetoencephalography (MEG) and works by picking up the tiny magnetic fields generated by firing brain cells.

One of the reasons MEG is such desirable kit is that it has “high spatiotemporal resolution”, which means it is very precise about which part of the brain is working and when it clocks on and off.

Until now, though, that valuable info has come at the cost of a big clunky scanning unit that needed the subject to stay statue still. It also used sensors that had to be kept at minus 269 degrees Celsius. That meant housing them in cryogenic canisters.

None of this seems remotely possible in a skater helmet, which makes the current research, led by Ryan Hill from the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre at the University of Nottingham, UK, all the more ingenious.

Read the full story in Cosmos magazine here