New Pacemakers Prove MRI-Proof

With some precautions, modern models are immune to scanner's deadly influence

4 min read

According to both medical wisdom and regulatory decree, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and implanted heart devices such as pacemakers do not mix. Henry Halperin, an associate professor of medicine, radiology, and biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, bluntly sums up the problem: "It is feared that the electromagnetic fields of the MRI may heat up metal components or pull on and dislodge the device, causing tissue damage, device malfunction, or possibly death."

Still, forgetful or comatose patients have inadvertently gotten scans, with more than two dozen deaths thought to be associated with the procedure. How many deaths were really due to the scan is anybody's guess; then again, nobody knows how many lives might be saved if patients with implants could get diagnostic MRI scans, which are regarded as the best imaging technology for the diagnosis of many cancers; diseases of the brain, head, and neck; and many cardiovascular conditions. It is estimated that half of patients with pacemakers become candidates for scanning at some point in their lives [see photo, " Safe Inside"].

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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