Describe And Discuss Methods Used To Study Cortical Specialisation

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There are several methods that both measure and scan the cortical functions of the brain and they both have their individual strengths and weaknesses. In a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan the scanner injects the patient with glucose containing radiotracers which are radioactive and emit positrons which are then picked up by the scanner. As glucose is used for energy in the body it will travel to the brain and distributes itself to the parts of the brain need it most at that time. When it is inside the brain, the PET scanner can detect the gamma rays of radiation emitted by the radioactive glucose and produce a three-dimensional image of the brain based on the concentration of the glucose molecules inside the parts of the brain that are using it. The concentration of the glucose in the brain is influenced by the examiner by asking the patient to perform specific tasks such as making decisions, solving problems or studying memory activities. PET scanning is useful to psychologists as it gives information about the functioning of the brain and which areas are more active and respond in different ways depending on the tasks that are set. This can then be linked to explain the functions occurring based on which parts of the brain are detected by the glucose to be responding. However this technique cannot be used to measure spontaneous behaviours as the scan measures only chemical concentrations in the brain and cannot measure the electrical signals that cause spontaneous behaviour. It can also be expensive due to the fact that radioactive substances are being used. There are ethical issues associated with PET scanning as injecting radioactive glucose can affect the patient’s health and could cause diseases to occur. PET scanning is used to assess the brain activity in people who have received strokes, cancer of the brain, traumas and other brain dysfunctions to see of what parts the brain are no longer functioning due to these diseases.

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