Magnetoencephalography: mapping the human brain

A non-invasive process that provides a much cleaner representation of the brain’s activity


Jack H. Miller, who served as CEO and president of Howard Miller Company for 48 years, has made possible the Magnetoencephalography Center (MEG) to serve Spectrum Health patients. The MEG gives neurologists the most complete picture of brain function and disease before they perform essential procedures, leading to improved outcomes for both adult and pediatric patients.

Before Jack H. Miller helped bring MEG technology to Grand Rapids, the closest locations for an adult or child to have access to comprehensive MEG procedures were Cleveland and Milwaukee, in much larger medical centers. “Our MEG lab and diagnostics are now on par with the best of the best of the best,” says Angel Hernandez, MD, division chief for neurosciences at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, “and philanthropy has made it possible. The MEG, which wouldn’t have happened here without Jack’s gift, demonstrates that Spectrum Health is serious about caring for patients with epilepsy and other neurological conditions.”

One recent anecdote plainly highlights the power and effectiveness of the MEG. “One of our patients presented with ‘reading epilepsy,’ a condition in which they would have a seizure while simply reading a book,” says Paul Ferrari, PhD, technical director. “The MEG actually showed something very different than what all the other diagnostic tests had shown. The MEG altered the trajectory of surgery and allowed us to target a different part of the brain that was causing the seizures. The subsequent treatment was effective, and the patient is doing well.”

Since the MEG was established in December 2020, more than 150 patients have been treated, effectively doubling projected rates. “We were focused on epilepsy in our first year, hoping to expand by year three,” says Dr. Ferrari. “With our current success, that expansion will happen earlier in year two, so we are working toward including patients with brain tumors and other non-epilepsy abnormalities that require surgery.”

Jack H. Miller is a leader in business and philanthropy, supporting a broad scope of initiatives that make West Michigan a better place to live and work. In making this gift, Jack said, “Kindness, compassion, and support for the entire family are vital to the healing process. I am grateful to be part of a community that believes in making innovative health care available to all who need it.” Adds Darryl Elmouchi, MD, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan: “We are so grateful for Jack’s generosity that makes it possible for us to offer this important diagnostic technology to people in West Michigan. This advanced equipment is another example of creating world-class care as close to home as possible for patients facing life-changing health concerns.”


What is magnetoencephalography?

Magnetoencephalography—MEG, for short— is one of the most advanced functional neuroimaging technologies available for mapping brain activity. It records magnetic fields produced by electrical currents occurring naturally in the brain. It is a non-invasive process that provides a much cleaner, more precise representation of the brain’s activity than electroencephalogram—or EEG—which uses electrodes to diagnose brain disorders. MEG provides advanced information by creating a map of surgical targets and regions to avoid. This helps to improve patient diagnosis with less trauma, lower risk to the patient and better outcomes, all at a lower cost.

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