magnetic-imaging

MRI of the Fetal Brain

Advancements in MRI are giving us an unprecedented look at the fetal brain.

Until approximately a decade ago, what researchers knew about the developing prenatal brain came primarily from analyzing the brains of aborted or miscarried fetuses. But studying postmortem brains can be confounding because scientists can’t definitively pinpoint whether the injuries to the brain occurred before or during birth. 

Over the years, however, improvements to MRI are finally enabling researchers to study the developing brain in real time. With these advancements, researchers are just beginning to understand how normal brains develop, and how abnormalities can manifest over the course of development. Scientists cataloguing typical infant brain development with the mini-MRI hope to use it eventually to study the brains of premature babies, who have a high risk of brain damage. Ultimately, clinicians hope to intervene early with therapies, if available and approved, to prevent developmental disorders when there are signs of brain damage in utero or shortly after birth.

Read more here in Nature Medicine. 

Wave of the future: Terahertz chips a new way of seeing through matter

Electromagnetic pulses lasting one millionth of a millionth of a second may hold the key to advances in medical imaging, communications and drug development. But the pulses, called terahertz waves, have long required elaborate and expensive equipment to use.

Now, researchers at Princeton University have drastically shrunk much of that equipment: moving from a tabletop setup with lasers and mirrors to a pair of microchips small enough to fit on a fingertip.

Keep reading

Imagine Erik Finding Out That You, His Young Daughter, Have Inherited His Powers

Originally posted by timestolaugh

“Slow down, Erik, what are you on about?” Charles frowned through the phone.

“Y/N has- she’s- she’s like me, Charles!” Erik sputtered. He had you in one arm, and you were squirming in an attempt to ‘do the magic’ again. You had always been very enchanted by your father when he did little magic tricks with his metallokinesis to entertain you, and you were only concerned with your joy of possessing ‘the magic’ as well.

“NO, Y/N, no, no no, we do not do that with those!” Erik said quickly, moving the silverware you had begun to float out of your sight. He pulled the phone back over to his ear to hear what Charles had to say about it. It didn’t quite matter if he had moved the dangerous utensils; you had found something else to play with.

“Just bring her to the mansion, I’ll run a few simple tests I do with the students, she’ll be fine, Erik.”

“Alright, alright, I’ll bring her up in the morning,” Erik sighed. He hung up the phone with a breath of relief, only to look down at you.

“Papa, look!” you giggled; his old, worn Magneto helmet rested loosely over your head. Memories around that helmet flooded his mind, both good and bad. He had tried to hurt in that headpiece. He had tried to kill, and he had wanted to keep that part of his past far away from you.

However, looking down at the innocence in your eyes, he felt a spark of hope. Maybe, where he had become a symbol of hate, you could be one of hope.

(For @silverwingedfox)

So there’s loads of different neuroimaging methods out there that are used depending on what it is you’re looking for! I’ve had the privilege of actually studying it and there’s so so many different types more than just functional MRI that people don’t really know about so here are a few and what they’re used for an how they work.

MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The most commonly used form of neuroimaging and for good reason. MRI uses the body’s tissue density and magnetic properties of water to visualise structures within the body. It has really incredible spatial and temporal quality and is predominantly used in neuroscience/neurology for looking for any structural abnormalities such as tumours, tissue degeneration etc. It’s fantastic a fantastic form of imaging and is used in numerous amounts of research.

Functional MRI (fMRI)

These images are captured the same way as MRI but the quality is a little bit lower because the aim is to capture function (those blobs you can see) as quickly and accurately as possible so the quality is compromised a little bit. Nonetheless, fMRI usually uses the BOLD response to measure function. It measures the amount of activity in different areas of the brain when doing certain things, so during a memory test for example, and it does that by measuring the amount oxygen that a certain area requires. The increased oxygen is believed to be sent to an area where there is more neuronal activity, so it’s not a direct measurement but rather we’re looking at a byproduct. There are numerous studies trying to find the direct link between the haemodynamic response and neuronal activity, particularly at TUoS (where I’m doing my masters!) but for the moment this is all we have. This sort of imaging is used a lot for research and checking the general function of the brain, so if you were to have had surgery on your brain, they may run one of these just to see which areas might be affected from it and how, or in research we’ve used this a lot to research cognition - which areas are affected during certain cognitive tasks (ie my MSc thesis - Cognition in schizophrenia and consanguinity). 

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI)

This is my current favourite type of NI right now! DTI is beautiful, unique and revolutionary in this day and age, it’s almost like sci-fi stuff! DTI measures the rate of water diffusion along white matter tracts and with that calculates the directions and structural integrity of them to create these gorgeous white matter brain maps. They are FANTASTIC for finding structural damage in white matter - something that is making breakthroughs in research lately ie. schizophrenia, genetics and epilepsy. It measures the rate of diffusion which tells you about possible myelin/axonal damage and anisotropy, so the directions and if they are “tightly wound” or loosely put together - think of it like rope, good FA is a good strong rope, poor FA is when it starts to fray and go off in different directions - like your white matter tracts. My current research used DTI and it was honestly surreal to work with, the images are also acquired through an MRI scanner so you can actually get these images the same time you’re getting MRI’s done, functional or otherwise! 

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

One of the “controversies” (if you could call it that) is the use of radioactive substances in PET scanning. It requires the injection of a nuclear medicine to have the metabolic processes in your brain light up like Christmas! It uses a similar functional hypothesis to BOLD fMRI, in that it is based on the assumption that higher functional areas would have higher radioactivity and that’s why it lights up in a certain way. It depends on glucose or oxygen metabolism, so high amounts of glucose/oxygen metabolism would show up red and less active areas would show up blue, perfect for showing any functional abnormalities in the overall brain. However it has incredibly poor temporal resolution and due to it’s invasive nature, MRI is chosen more often. (The pictures are gorgeous though!) 

Electroencephalography/Magnetoencephalography (EEG & MEG)

These are not “imaging” types in the stereotypical sense. They create a series of waves that you can physically see (think of the lines you get on a lie detector!). Electrodes/Tiny magnets are placed on the scalp/head in specific areas corresponding to certain brain structures. EEG picks up on electrical activity which is the basis of neuronal function, whereas MEG picks up on magnetic fields - the same property that is utilised by MRI. One of the biggest issues with EEG is that deeper structures passing through tissues get distorted, whereas MEG doesn’t because it only measures the magnetic properties. I’ve not had a lot of experience with either of these but I do know EEG is used in a lot of medical procedures to measure brain activity, from measuring seizures and sleep disorders to measuring brain activity in a coma. It’s fantastic and if you can actually figure out how to conduct and interpret results it’s an invaluable tool into looking at electrical activity. 

3

Magnetic Floating Rings

[Image description: A black dowel with green, red, yellow, and blue rings stacked on it. In the second picture, the rings are “floating” due to the magnets repelling each other. The gif has a light skinned person pushing the top ring down, causing it to spring back up quickly]

Though it’s only about 4 inches tall, this toy is a fun demonstration of magnetic properties. Each ring is magnetic, as well as the base of the dowel. This toy is portable, and provides both visual and tactile stimming.

Purchased from: Office Playground*

Is anyone else curious as to how it stays on? Apparently there isn’t a surgery, like I imagine Ironwood had to have, it’s just a prosthetic arm. Maybe Aura holds it on? Is it a strap in a lower compartment of the box we couldn’t see? Is the hub cap in her teaser image magnetic? How will this withstand her mighty punches?! And when will she paint fire decals over it?!

Jack grimaced. ‘We need to work out what’s happened to her. I don’t know whether it’s physical or psychological, but she’s somehow developed this ravenous hunger that nothing can satisfy. Owen – we need to find some way of getting some blood from her that you can run tests on. Might be best to do it quickly, before the horse tranquillisers wear off. Make sure Ianto covers you. Check for anything that might explain her actions. Gwen – I need you to work on her identity. … Tosh – I need you to work on non-invasive sensors that can give us a picture of what’s going on inside her. Microwave, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, X-ray… anything you can get to work at a range of six feet through an aluminium screen. I know it’s a tall order, but we can’t afford to keep sending people in there to conduct tests. They’ll pretty soon become lunch. Which reminds me. Ianto – get on the phone to Jubilee Pizzas. We’ll need a whole load of stuff. Just get them to load the pizzas up with whatever they have and keep them coming. Tell them we’re having a party.’
— 

Slow Decay by Andy Lane (Torchwood Novels #3)

Oh Jubilee… this is pre-Cyberwoman, so this would be a more or less regular call for Ianto. Also Ianto’s quite versatile. 

The Element: Earth

Earth represents strength, abundance, stability, prosperity, wealth and femininity. In rituals, Earth is represented in the forms of burying objects in the earth, herbalism, and making images out of wood or stone.

Gender: Feminine

Direction: North

Energy: Receptive

Symbols: Rocks, fields, soil, salt, caves, clay

Placing on Pentagram: Lower left

Time: Midnight, night

Cycle of Life: Age

Season: Winter

Colours: Black, green, yellow, brown

Zodiac signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Sense: Touch

Stones/Jewels: Rock crystal, emerald, onyx, jasper, salt, azurite, amethyst, quartz

Magickal tools: Pentacle, Pentagram, salt, images, stones, gems, cords

Metals: Iron, lead

Herbal: Ivy, grains, oats, rice, patchouli, lichens

Trees: Cypress, Honeysuckle, Jasmin, Lilac (some say Lilac is Water)

Animals: Cow, bull, dog, horse, ant, bears, wolf

Type of Magick: Gardening, magnet images, stone (jewel divination, work with crystals), knot, Binding, money spells, grounding, finding treasures, runes.

Ritual action: Burying, making effigies, planting trees or herbs

Bird’s-eye (axial) view of nerve fibers in a normal, healthy adult human brain. Brain cells communicate with each other through these nerve fibers, which have been visualized using diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging. Diffusion weighted imaging is a specialized type of MRI scan which measures water diffusion in many directions in order to reconstruct the orientation of the nerve fibers. Since these images are in 3D, colors have been used to represent the direction of the fibers: blue is for fibers traveling up/down, green for front/back, and red for left/right. These patterns of connectivity in the brain are being used to study brain development and developmental disorders such as dyslexia.

Image and caption courtesy of Zeynep M. Saygin, McGovern Institute, MIT, Wellcome Images

This spectacular thing isn’t a painting. It’s an image taken by Europe’s Planck telescope of the Magellanic Clouds. This Earth-orbiting observatory can see wavelengths of light that are invisible to the human eye (but do still exist mind you).

The swirly lines are all part of various magnetic field lines.

This image almost looks like it belongs in an art museum.

(Image credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

Brain scan method may help detect autism

Many doctors and scientists think they could improve the diagnosis and understanding of autism spectrum disorders if they had reliable means to identify specific abnormalities in the brain. Such “biomarkers” have proven elusive, often because methods that show promise with one group of patients fail when applied to another. In a new study in Nature Communications, however, scientists report a new degree of success. Their proposed biomarker worked with a comparably high degree of accuracy in assessing two diverse sets of adults.

(Image caption: Crucial connections A map of the brain connections that proved useful in distinguishing patients diagnosed with autism from people without an autism diagnosis)

The technology, principally developed at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto, Japan, with the major contributions from three co-authors at Brown University, is a computer algorithm called a “classifier” because it can classify sets of subjects – those with an autism spectrum disorder and those without – based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans. By analyzing thousands of connections of brain network connectivity in scores of people with and without autism, the software found 16 key interregional functional connections that allowed it to tell, with high accuracy, who had been traditionally diagnosed with autism and who had not. The team developed the classifier with 181 adult volunteers at three sites in Japan and then applied it in a group of 88 American adults at seven sites. All the study volunteers with autism diagnoses had no intellectual disability.

“It is the first study to [successfully] apply a classifier to a totally different cohort,” said co-corresponding author Yuka Sasaki, a research associate professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown. “There have been numerous attempts before. We finally overcame the problem.”

The classifier, which blends two machine-learning algorithms, worked well in each population, averaging 85 percent accuracy among the Japanese volunteers and 75 percent accuracy among the Americans. The researchers calculated that the probability of seeing this degree of cross-population performance purely by chance was 1.4 in a million.

“These results indicate that although we developed a highly reliable classifier using the training data only in Japan, it is sufficiently universal to classify [autism] in the U.S.A. validation cohort,” wrote the team of clinicians and basic researchers led by Mitsuo Kawato of ATR.

Further validation

In another way of validating the classifier, the researchers asked whether the differences it notes in the 16 connections were predictive not only of whether a person had an autism diagnosis at all, but whether they relate to performance on the main diagnostic method currently available to clinicians, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. ADOS is based not on markers of biology or physiology, but instead on a doctor’s interviews and observations of behavior. The classifier was able to predict scores on the ADOS communications component with a statistically significant correlation of 0.44.

The correlation suggests that the 16 connections identified by the classifier relate to attributes of importance in ADOS. When the researchers examined where these 16 connections are and what brain networks they affect, they found that 41 percent of the specific brain regions in which the 16 connections reside belonged within the cingulo-opercular network, which matters to brain functions such as conceiving of other people, face processing and emotional processing. Difficulties with such social and emotional perception tasks are important symptoms in autism spectrum disorders.

Finally, the team looked to see whether the classifier appropriately reflects the similarities and differences between autism spectrum disorders and other psychiatric conditions. Autism, for example, is known to share some similarities with schizophrenia but not with depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as indicated by a previous genome study. Applied to patients with each of these other disorders compared to similar people without the conditions, the classifier showed moderate but statistically significant accuracy in distinguishing schizophrenia patients, but not depression or ADHD patients.

Eventual clinical usefulness?

The MRI scans required to gather the data were simple, Sasaki said. Subjects only needed to spend about 10 minutes in the machine and didn’t have to perform any special tasks. They just had to stay still and rest.

Despite that simplicity and even though the classifier performed unprecedentedly well as a matter of research, Sasaki said, it is not yet ready to be a clinical tool. While the future may bring that development, refinements will be necessary first.

“The accuracy level needs to be much higher,” Sasaki said. “Eighty percent accuracy may not be useful in the real world.”

It’s also not clear how it would work among children, as the volunteers in this study were all adults.

But if the classifier’s accuracy can be improved further, the researchers hope that it can be used not only as a physiology-based diagnostic tool but also for monitoring treatment. Doctors perhaps will be able to use the tool someday to monitor whether therapies produce changes in brain connectivity, Sasaki said.

Txch This Week: Ingredients for Alien Life and Robot-Making Ink

This week on Txchnologist, we learned about unusual advances that could help MRIs detect cancer, a plan to remove tons of plastic garbage from the ocean and a robot explorer that successfully swam under Antarctica’s ice sheet.

Now we’re bringing you the highlights, along with other news we’ve been following in the world of science, technology and innovation.

Keep reading

Will They Need A Search Warrant For Your Brain?

by Carrie Peyton Dahlberg, Inside Science

Brain imaging can already pull bits of information from the minds of willing volunteers in laboratories. What happens when police or lawyers want to use it to pry a key fact from the mind of an unwilling person?

Will your brain be protected under the Fourth Amendment from unreasonable search and seizure?  

Or will your brain have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination?

“These are issues the United States Supreme Court is going to have to resolve,” said Nita Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who specializes in bioethical issues.

Keep reading

huffingtonpost.com
Neuroscience finds a distinction between birth-assigned sex and gender identity

Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna have discovered there may be a neurological distinction between a person’s birth-assigned sex and their gender identity, according to a new study. 

Here’s a recap of what they found:

Led by Georg S. Kanz of the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, the study was composed of 23 trans men, 21 trans women, 23 cis women and 22 cis men. Researchers used a type of MRI (“diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging” is the proper term, should you ever want to sound impressive during a dinner party) to measure diffusion of particles across brain matter. Cis women had the highest diffusivity – which means (bear with me here) that particle movement in white matter brain regions was greatest for this group, followed by trans men. Trans women had lower movement than the former, with cis men having the least.

There is some early evidence, then, that science is catching up with something many of us already assume, and for good reason: Gender identity exists on a scale, rather than in narrow dichotomized groups. In essence, trans people had brain chemistry approaching the middle of the gender spectrum – inherently different from their biological sex and closer to their identified gender. For example, a trans woman has significantly different brain movement than a cis man, despite having the same biological sex. Moreover, trans men and trans women were different from each other, implying that the brain shows a wide range of gender based differences, rather than simply male or female.

Previous studies have had similar results, but it’s too early to jump to a huge conclusion that changes the entire way we view a trans person’s biology and experiences; factors like hormone therapy, for example, can affect the results.

But what we can say is that we may have “some brain-based evidence to support that gender indeed exists on a spectrum,” as the writer puts it, and that the issues trans people face simply for being themselves are taken more seriously every day.