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Non-invasive detection of animal nerve impulses with an atomic magnetometer operating near quantum limited sensitivity

Jensen, Kasper; Budvytyte, Rima; Thomas, Rodrigo A.; Wang, Tian; Fuchs, Annette M.; Balabas, Mikhail V.; Vasilakis, Georgios; Mosgaard, Lars D.; St�rkind, Hans C.; M�ller, J�rg H.; Heimburg, Thomas; Olesen, S�ren-Peter; Polzik, Eugene S.


Kasper Jensen

Rima Budvytyte

Rodrigo A. Thomas

Tian Wang

Annette M. Fuchs

Mikhail V. Balabas

Georgios Vasilakis

Lars D. Mosgaard

Hans C. St�rkind

J�rg H. M�ller

Thomas Heimburg

S�ren-Peter Olesen

Eugene S. Polzik


Magnetic fields generated by human and animal organs, such as the heart, brain and nervous system carry information useful for biological and medical purposes. These magnetic fields are most commonly detected using cryogenically-cooled superconducting magnetometers. Here we present the first detection of action potentials from an animal nerve using an optical atomic magnetometer. Using an optimal design we are able to achieve the sensitivity dominated by the quantum shot noise of light and quantum projection noise of atomic spins. Such sensitivity allows us to measure the nerve impulse with a miniature roomerature sensor which is a critical advantage for biomedical applications. Positioning the sensor at a distance of a few millimeters from the nerve, corresponding to the distance between the skin and nerves in biological studies, we detect the magnetic field generated by an action potential of a frog sciatic nerve. From the magnetic field measurements we determine the activity of the nerve and the temporal shape of the nerve impulse. This work opens new ways towards implementing optical magnetometers as practical devices for medical diagnostics.


Jensen, K., Budvytyte, R., Thomas, R. A., Wang, T., Fuchs, A. M., Balabas, M. V., …Polzik, E. S. (2016). Non-invasive detection of animal nerve impulses with an atomic magnetometer operating near quantum limited sensitivity. Scientific Reports, 6, Article 29638.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 22, 2016
Online Publication Date Jul 15, 2016
Publication Date Jul 15, 2016
Deposit Date Dec 6, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 21, 2018
Journal Scientific Reports
Print ISSN 2045-2322
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Article Number 29638
Public URL
Publisher URL


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