Wednesday, May 12, 2004
The functional part of fMRI refers to the fact that the technique permits imaging of the function of an anatomical part, as opposed to just getting a picture of the part itself. With fMRI, it is possible to see what parts of the brain become more (or less) active when certain tasks are performed.
fMRI is mentioned infrequently in the Blogosphere. According to Waypath, it is mentioned, on average, less than once per day. Most of these are cursory mentions. There was a bit of interest in an fMRI study showing the anatomic location of the placebo effect. (Scientific American, February 20, 2004, Scientists See How Placebo Effect Eases Pain), and in an article about using fMRI to detect differences in the way the brains of Democrats and Republicans viewed emotionally-charged political images. Aziz Poonawalla, on the blog UNMEDIA wrote about the Democrat/Republican study as reported in the NYT. It also was mentioned on JawsBlog and Drudge Report. Of greater clinical interest, there was a report showing possible utility of real-time biofeedback using fMRI to teach people to control pain sensations. This was mentioned on Marginal Revolution, Pain for Philosophers, and Seedlings & Sprouts. Dean's World makes a brief mention of a study on the localization of long-term memory. This was not a study that used fMRI, but Dean's comments about the fact that there must be a limit to the amount of information the brain can hold. This is something that has been investigated using fMRI. FuturePundit elaborates on this, and adds some comments about a different study that seems to show what happens in the brain when a person has an eureka moment. The latter study is especially interesting because the authors show a correlation between the findings using fMRI and those revealed using EEG.
fMRI is playing a key role in the Human Brain Project. The HBP is a project, comparable in score to the Human Genome Project, that attempts to use bioinformatics technology to develop a complete picture of human brain function. As Dean mentioned, there is a limit to how much information the brain can store. This, ironically, limits out ability to understand the brain. The HBP is an attempt to address this limitation. As they say in their introduction:
In the first paragraph of this post, I mentioned that the results of individual studies often are meaningless without a broad understanding of the scientific context. This applies to scientists as well as laypersons. The HBP may be helpful in helping specialists have ready access to the information required to place a given study in a meaningful context.
By the way, for those regular folks who want to develop an understanding of the scientific context of various studies, a good way to find recent articles on scientific topics is to do a keyword search at ScienceDaily.com. Here is the result of a search for fMRI. This does not give you the complete context, but it is a good place to start.
fMRI is not the only tool that allows for functional imaging of the brain. Positron Emission Tomography and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography have been in use for years. In general, though, fMRI is the most practical of the currently-available methods, since it does not require the injection of radioactive tracers. A related technique, magnetoencephalography, is under development. Furthermore, MRI technology is constantly being improved.
All of this is really background information for what I plan to post next, which is a review of the CNS Spectrums issue devoted to neuroimaging.
Go back to The Corpus Callosum here.
(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
E-mail a link that points to this post: