Magnetoencephalography abnormalities in adult mild traumatic brain injury: a systematic review

Christopher M. Allen, Lloyd Halsey, Gogem Topcu, Lukas Rier, Lauren E. Gascoyne, John W Scadding, Paul L. Furlong, Benjamin T. Dunkley, Roshan das Nair, Matthew J. Brookes, Nikos Evangelou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background The global incidence of traumatic brain injuries is rising, with at least 80% being classified as mild. These mild injuries are not visible on routine clinical imaging. The potential clinical role of a specific imaging biomarker be it diagnostic, prognostic or directing and monitoring progress of personalised treatment and rehabilitation has driven the exploration of several new neuroimaging modalities. This systematic review examined the evidence for magnetoencephalography (MEG) to provide an imaging biomarker in mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Methods Our review was prospectively registered on PROSPERO: CRD42019151387. We searched EMBASE, MEDLINE, trial registers, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library and conference abstracts and identified 37 papers describing MEG changes in mTBI eligible for inclusion. Since meta-analysis was not possible, based on the heterogeneity of reported outcomes, we provide a narrative synthesis of results. Results The two most promising MEG biomarkers are excess resting state low frequency power, and widespread connectivity changes in all frequency bands. These may represent biomarkers with potential for diagnostic application, which reflect time sensitive changes, or may be capable of offering clinically relevant prognostic information. In addition, the rich data that MEG produces are well-suited to new methods of machine learning analysis, which is now being actively explored. Interpretation MEG reveals several promising biomarkers, in the absence of structural abnormalities demonstrable with either computerised tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. This review has not identified sufficient evidence to support routine clinical use of MEG in mTBI currently. However, verifying MEG’s potential would help meet an urgent clinical need within civilian, sports and military medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102697
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Early online date8 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license

Funding Information:
We acknowledge funding from the Medical Research council UK (MC_PC_17173) and the Engineering and Physical; Sciences Research Council UK (EP/T001046/1).


  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Systematic review


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