Brain Imaging Technology

Topics: Brain, Neuroimaging, Medical imaging Pages: 11 (4129 words) Published: December 5, 2013

Current Issues in Brain Imaging Technology
Brain imaging technology has revolutionized the way doctors, scientists, and researchers are able to see the workings of this highly complex organ. The use of brain imaging techniques allows for discovery without the use of invasive surgical procedures. Now used throughout the globe, these techniques have matured dramatically in the last century.

With its roots in the early twentieth century using low-tech devices, brain imaging has evolved dramatically to provide images and records that are increasingly sophisticated and detailed. Current technologies include fMRI, PET scans, CT scans, MEG and EEG. These technologies have advanced to investigate thoughts, diagnose illness, understand cognitive and perceptual processes, and allow for research in a host of areas such as deception detection, imagination, and personality related research.

FMRI technology measures of blood flow by contrasting the changes of oxygen in the brain to create a vivid image. It is a cylindrical tube that uses a powerful magnet as a scanner. This is one of the most commonly used non-invasive brain imaging techniques. Utilizing fMRI technology, a picture is created that can assist qualified individuals in determining how a brain is functioning. It can also build understanding of brain activity during certain tasks. The study of these correlations is a field that has expanded exponentially in the last twenty years. Memory, deception, and understanding what areas of the brain are activated and related to certain functions are commonly studied areas.

A PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) involves the use of radiation to create images that map functional processes of the brain. A radiotracer is either injected or inhaled as a gas. The patient must remain as still as possible while the scan is in process. These images can be used to diagnose health conditions or to monitor the progression of treatments. Common uses for the technology include epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. The technology has become sophisticated enough to diagnose these diseases at a very early stage.

A CT scan (Computed Tomography) uses x-ray technology to create an image that shows the structure of the brain. Unlike fMRI and PET scans, CT images do not help establish function. CT can help determine bleeding/hemorrhage, swelling, fractures and tumors. They are commonly used in emergency situations such as trauma and where a lower cost technique is desired.

An EEG (Electroencephalography) is a measurement of electrical activity in the brain by recording electrodes on the scalp. With its roots in studies conducting in the early twentieth century, this technology is one of the earliest forms of brain imaging. Instead of an image of the brain, brain waves are recorded; these waves can be detected and observed in a split second. Records created can be used to diagnose epilepsy, monitor brain activity during a coma, or understand sleep disorders as the brain emits these waves at all times and thus records can be derived even as an individual is sleeping. However, EEG does not show the structure or functional anatomy of the brain.

One of the latest advancements in imaging technology is the MEG scan (Magnetoencephalography) which measure brain activity and magnetic fields of the brain. These highly powerful machines are useful in cases of epilepsy, brain tumors, studying emotions, and studying pain perception (2007). MEG provides timing of activity down to the millisecond, more accurate than other technologies. With their high cost, around two million dollars, there are very few of these machines globally. MEG cannot determine the physical parts of the brain, but when combined with fMRI technology, great detailed images for study can be created (2007).

Currently, studies using these brain imaging technologies have allowed researchers to examine areas of the brain that control memories, deception, imagination, and other...

References: Hasing, B., Jancke, L., & Tag, B. (2006). Impact Assessment of Neuroimaging. Neurowissenschaften: Die Deutsche Bibliothek.
Klein, C. (2010). Philosophical Issues in Neuroimaging. Philosophy Compass, 5(2), 186-198.
McDonald, M. (2011). Some ethical issues in brain imaging. Cortex, 47, 1272-1274. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from
MEG Scanners Are Mega Powerful
The Secret Life of the Brain : Scanning the Brain. PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved September 1, 2013, from
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