Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) And How It Works

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) And How It Works

The fMRI employs a magnetic field to collect information about the body. It is one of the most prominent methods in neuroscience for studying the structure of the brain, including differences in the structural characteristics of different people's brains.

It works with a system that produces images of the brain's functions that indicates whether the activity of neurons is increased or decreased in specific parts of the brain and under which conditions.

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Emission Computed Tomography (ECT)

Emission Computed Tomography is the most invasive method for brain imaging. Its name comes from the emission of radioactive energy by tracers injected into the blood - which is a signature aspect of this approach to understanding the brain.

The two major types of ECT are:

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET); and
  • Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)

Each of these uses different types of radioactive isotopes and they are monitored in the brain using different tools.

The use of EEG allows further research on the following:

  • Memory processing during sleep
  • Mental illness
  • Providing further evidence in the differences in reward processing with those who suffer from mental illness

Moreover, the EEG has a mobile version "mobile EEG" that can study brain activities of real-world behaviors like kissing romantic partners.

  • The BOLD signal stands for blood-oxygen-level dependent. This is a brain imaging signal that shows whether the level of oxygen in the parts of the brain increasing or decreasing.
  • The fMRI is used to explore how brains function with different psychiatric order, it helps identify the connectivity of high or low activity for people with particular conditions, it investigates parts of the brain that supports social processes, and it illuminates the existence of networks of connecting brain areas.
Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • The EEG is used to measure the electrical activities of the brain. The process is non-invasive and is done through the scalp with flat metal electrodes.
  • Though due to its non-invasiveness what it shows is relatively limited, but regardless it is a valuable tool for analyzing brain dynamics over time.
  • It helps indicate one's mental processes, mental state, and assists in diagnosing conditions like epilepsy or sleep disorder.

To use the ECT method is to inject radioactive atoms into the person's bloodstream and have them circulated into the brain. The energy emitted is monitored by external devices that provide information about their concentration in the brain. Lastly, a mathematical model allows the data on radiation to be translated into information about brain processes.

This method allows researchers to analyze one's physiological process in ways other forms of brain imaging cannot, and more.

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Dopamine

Dopamine plays many roles in the brain. It is related to movement, motivation, and reinforcement of behavior.

Dopamine appears to exert significant effects in two regions of the brain's cortex, the motor cortex, and the insular cortex. The insular cortex is critical for many cognitive functions related to the perception of the body's internal states, including physical and emotional states.

Performer - audience synchrony

When you are at a concert and you get to the part with a refrain from your favorite song, you are swept up in the music. The performers and audience seem to be moving as one.

Research has shown there is a synchrony that can be seen in the brain activities of the audience and a performer. And the greater the degree of synchrony, the more the audience enjoys the performance.

The feeling of free will may be an illusion. 

Our brain can subconsciously predict an outcome of a decision before we are aware we are making one. Yet, we often believe that we consciously drove our own actions.

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