Brain Imaging Techniques: MRI, MRS and fMRI
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Brain Imaging Techniques: MRI, MRS and fMRI

Brain imaging tachniques have contributed a lot to the understanding of several neurological conditions. In this article three techniques will be discussed: MRI, MRS and fMRI

Many recent advances in understanding the brain are due to the development that allow scientists to observe neurons directly throughout the body. Three of these methods, that are closely related will be discussed here, MRI, MRS and fMRI.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This technique provides a high-quality, three-dimensional image of organs and structures inside the body without X-rays or other forms of radiation. MRIs are unsurpassed in anatomical detail and may reveal tiny changes that occur over time. It tells scientists when structural abnormalities first appear in the course of a disease, how they affect the development and how their progression relates to other changes.

During the 15 minute procedure, the patient lies inside a massive, hollow cylindrical magnet and is exposed to a powerful, steady magnetic field. Different atoms in the brain resonate in different frequencies to magnetic fields. A magnetic background field lines up all atoms in the brain in an MRI. A second magnetic field, with a different orientation than the first one, is turned on and off many times per second. When this field is turned off, the atoms that were aligned with it, switch back to be aligned with the first magnetic field. This swinging back and forth can be detected and converted into an image. Tissue containing a lot of fat and water produces a bright image, while tissue with little or no water, such as bone, appears to be black.

MRI images can be constructed in any plane and the technique is particularly valuable in the study of the brain and spinal cord.

Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS)

Closely related to MRI, this technique allows the measurement of concentrations of specific chemicals in the different parts of the brain using the same machine. By measuring the metabolic and molecular changes in the brain, MRS has already provided new information on brain development and aging, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, autism and stroke.

Since MRS in non-invasive, it is ideal for studying the natural course of a disease or its response to treatment.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

This is one of the most popular neuroimaging techniques at present. It compares brain activity under rested and activated conditions, combining high-resolution spatial, non-invasive images of the brain anatomy, offered by a standard MRI, with a strategy for detecting an increase in blood oxygen levels when brain activity brings fresh blood to a certain area of the brain.

This technique allows for more detailed maps of brain areas underlying mental activities in health and disease. So far, it has already been used to study the various functions of the brain, from sensory responses to cognitive activities.

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Comments (1)

Very informative indeed.

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