Taking Brain Pictures or Neuroimaging includes the use of various techniques to either directly or indirectly image the structure, function/pharmacology of the brain. It is a relatively new discipline within medicineand neuroscience/psychology. Physicians who specialize in the performance and interpretation of neuroimaging in the clinical setting are neuroradiologists.
Neuroimaging falls into two broad categories:
- Structural imaging, which deals with the structure of the brain and the diagnosis of gross (large scale) intracranial disease (such as tumor), and injury, and
- functional imaging, which is used to diagnose metabolic diseases and lesions on a finer scale (such as Alzheimer’s disease) and also for neurological and cognitive psychology research and building brain-computer interfaces.
Functional imaging enables, for example, the processing of information by centers in the brain to be visualized directly. Such processing causes the involved area of the brain to increase metabolism and “light up” on the scan. One of the more controversial uses of neuroimaging has been research into “Thought identification” or mind-reading.
Breakthrough in Brain Pictures
Scientists funded by the Defense Department have a breakthrough that could allow researchers to create in 220 days an highly detailed picture of the brain that in the past would have taken 80 years of scans to complete.
Scientists at Stanford University developed a new way to see the brain in greater detail, outlined in the journal Nature Protocols, said that it could mark a new era of fast brain imaging, allowing researchers to see in much greater detail not only how parts of the brain interact on a cellular level but also to better understand those interactions across the entire brain.
This technique is related to the emerging subfield of optogenetics, and while it is considered the cutting edge of neuroscience research, it’s not new. But the technique pioneered by the Stanford researchers allows for three-dimensional visualization that is both granular and wide enough to encompass the entire brain. Said Sanchez, “Traditionally, with the optogenetic technique, you really don’t have the structure to go along with the activation. That’s why the Neuro-FAST program is so exciting.”