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. 

Hey bitches

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.

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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)

Hearing with your eyes – A Western style of speech perception

Which parts of a person’s face do you look at when you listen them speak? Lip movements affect the perception of voice information from the ears when listening to someone speak, but native Japanese speakers are mostly unaffected by that part of the face. Recent research from Japan has revealed a clear difference in the brain network activation between two groups of people, native English speakers and native Japanese speakers, during face-to-face vocal communication.

It is known that visual speech information, such as lip movement, affects the perception of voice information from the ears when speaking to someone face-to-face. For example, lip movement can help a person to hear better under noisy conditions. On the contrary, dubbed movie content, where the lip movement conflicts with a speaker’s voice, gives a listener the illusion of hearing another sound. This illusion is called the “McGurk effect.”

According to an analysis of previous behavioral studies, native Japanese speakers are not influenced by visual lip movements as much as native English speakers. To examine this phenomenon further, researchers from Kumamoto University measured and analyzed gaze patterns, brain waves, and reaction times for speech identification between two groups of 20 native Japanese speakers and 20 native English speakers.

The difference was clear. When natural speech is paired with lip movement, native English speakers focus their gaze on a speaker’s lips before the emergence of any sound. The gaze of native Japanese speakers, however, is not as fixed. Furthermore, native English speakers were able to understand speech faster by combining the audio and visual cues, whereas native Japanese speakers showed delayed speech understanding when lip motion was in view.

“Native English speakers attempt to narrow down candidates for incoming sounds by using information from the lips which start moving a few hundreds of milliseconds before vocalizations begin. Native Japanese speakers, on the other hand, place their emphasis only on hearing, and visual information seems to require extra processing,” explained Kumamoto University’s Professor Kaoru Sekiyama, who lead the research.

Kumamoto University researchers then teamed up with researchers from Sapporo Medical University and Japan’s Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) to measure and analyze brain activation patterns using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Their goal was to elucidate differences in brain activity between the two languages.

The functional connectivity in the brain between the area that deals with hearing and the area that deals with visual motion information, the primary auditory and middle temporal areas respectively, was stronger in native English speakers than in native Japanese speakers. This result strongly suggests that auditory and visual information are associated with each other at an early stage of information processing in an English speaker’s brain, whereas the association is made at a later stage in a Japanese speaker’s brain. The functional connectivity between auditory and visual information, and the manner in which the two types of information are processed together was shown to be clearly different between the two different language speakers.

“It has been said that video materials produce better results when studying a foreign language. However, it has also been reported that video materials do not have a very positive effect for native Japanese speakers,” said Professor Sekiyama. “It may be that there are unique ways in which Japanese people process audio information, which are related to what we have shown in our recent research, that are behind this phenomenon.”

These findings were published in the journal “Scientific Reports” on August 11th and October 13th, 2016.

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. 


In 2001, tragedy happened when 6 years old Michael Colombini was struck and killed at Westchester Medical Center by a 6-pound metal oxygen tank when it was pulled into the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine while he underwent a test. He began to experience breathing difficulties while in the MRI and when an anesthesiologist brought a portable oxygen canister into the magnetic field, it was pulled from his hands and struck the boy in the head.

Out-of-body flight “really” happens, then–it is a real physical event, but only in the patient’s brain and, as a result, in his subjective experience. The out-of-body state is, by and large, an exacerbated form of the dizziness that we all experience when our vision disagrees with our vestibular system, as on a rocking boat.

Blanke went on to show that any human can leave her body: he created just the right amount of stimulation, via synchronized but delocalized visual and touch signals, to elicit an out-of-body experience in the normal brain. Using a clever robot, he even managed to re-create the illusion in a magnetic resonance imager. And while the scanned person experienced the illusion, her brain lit up in the temporoparietal junction–very close to where the patient’s lesions were located.

We still do not know exactly how this region works to generate a feeling of self-location. Still, the amazing story of how the out-of-body state moved from the parapsychological curiosity to mainstream neuroscience gives a message of hope. Even outlandish subjective phenomena can be traced back to their neural origins. The key is to treat such introspections with just the right amount of seriousness. They do not give direct insights into our brain’s inner mechanisms; rather, they constitute the raw material on which a solid science of consciousness can be properly founded.
—  Dehaene, Stanislas. Consciousness and The Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts. NY, NY: Viking, 2014. 44-45. Print.

anonymous asked:

there is no difference between the brains of men and women. try harder, misogynist.

Female brains have a higher percentage of grey matter.

“While measuring brain activity with magnetic resonance imaging during blood pressure trials, UCLA researchers found that men and women had opposite responses in the right front of the insular cortex.”

“The female brain appears to have increased connection between neurons in the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and males seem to have increased neural communication within hemispheres from frontal to rear portions of the organ.”

Here are some other links with information on the differences between male and female brains:

But I guess science is just misogynistic.

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

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

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)
Talking to ourselves: the science of the little voice in your head
By Peter Moseley

by Peter Moseley

Most of us will be familiar with the experience of silently talking to ourselves in our head. Perhaps you’re at the supermarket and realise that you’ve forgotten to pick up something you needed. “Milk!” you might say to yourself. Or maybe you’ve got an important meeting with your boss later in the day, and you’re simulating – silently in your head – how you think the conversation might go, possibly hearing both your own voice and your boss’s voice responding.

This is the phenomenon that psychologists call “inner speech”, and they’ve been trying to study it pretty much since the dawn of psychology as a scientific discipline. In the 1930s, the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky argued that inner speech developed through the internalisation of “external”, out-loud speech. If this is true, does inner speech use the same mechanisms in the brain as when we speak out loud?

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