Brain imaging academic receives OBE in New Year honours

Friday, 29 December 2023

An academic who works on the development of brain imaging technology has been awarded an OBE in this year's New Year Honours.

Professor Matthew Brookes from the University of Nottingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy has been recognised for services to physics.

A physicist who has spent 20 years working on the development and application of multi-modal brain imaging, Professor Brookes helped pioneer a new kind of wearable brain scanner that has potential to transform the diagnosis and understanding of a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including autism, epilepsy and dementia.

This new generation of brain scanner employs quantum enabled sensors to measure magnetic fields above the scalp that are generated by brain activity (a process termed magnetoencephalography (MEG)). Professor Brookes and his team have used small, lightweight optically pumped magnetometers (OPMs), which employ the fundamental quantum physics of atoms to measure the neuromagnetic field. The team were able to incorporate these sensors into a novel scanner design that can be worn as a helmet allowing people to move freely. The system can be adapted to anyone, from newborns to adults, and sensors can be placed much closer to the head, dramatically enhancing data quality. OPM-MEG is also cheaper than conventional scanners.

I’m absolutely delighted to receive this incredible honour. I’ve been fortunate to work with an unbelievably talented team of scientists for many years, both here in Nottingham and collaborators across the world, and the credit for all we have achieved must go to them.
Professor Matt Brookes

He added: "I’d also like to thank all of the staff and students in the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre and School of Physics and Astronomy, who make working at the University an immense pleasure. Most importantly, I’d like to thank my family, in particular my wife Emma and our children Isabel and Freddie, for their unwavering support over a long career.”

Professor Brookes has been a leading player in neuroimaging for many years, working on mathematical modelling for MEG data, fusion of data from multiple imaging modalities, and structural and functional MRI, before joining the UK national quantum technology programme to work on development of the new scanner. He leads and supports a team of scientists working on MEG and actively promotes their career development, encouraging them to publish and publicise research. This has led to further awards and recognition for the team from the Institute of Physics who awarded them the Clifford Paterson award in 2022, the Blatvanik Family Foundation the Medical Research Council and the Times Higher.

The combined efforts of Professor Brookes and his team made the commercialisation of OPM-MEG viable. Cerca Magnetics Limited was launched in July 2020 with a vision to support institutions around the world who want to use OPM-MEG technology. In it’s first 3 years, Cerca has been profitable with over £13 million of sales. This has enabled the new technology to be installed in major hospitals and leading academic institutions worldwide, where it is now being used for a wide variety of applications including investigation of brain function in children with autistic spectrum disorders, and identification of the brain regions responsible for epilepsy.

Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Nottingham, said: "The work of Professor Brookes and his team is accelerating our understanding of brain function and builds on a long legacy of brain imaging research at the University of Nottingham. The commercialisation of the MEG system is also creating important new collaborations and taking this research around the world. We are very proud of Professor Brookes’ achievements and recognition in the New Years’ Honours list is richly deserved."

Honorary Professor of Chemistry, Dr Simon Grant has also been awarded an MBE for services to diversity in the chemical industry. Dr Grant is Technical Director at speciality chemicals manufacturer Thomas Swan and has been in the chemical industry for over 25 years, with a focus on research and development. Dr Grant is passionate about improving diversity within the Chemical Sciences had has been a member of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee at the Royal Society of Chemistry. He also champions diversity as part of his role on the Sustainability Steering Group of the Chemical Industries Association.

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

Notes to editors:

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