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Five Ways Science is Studying The Brain

Read about unexplained organ-brain.

It’s the most mysterious and little-understood organ in the entire body: the brain.

It’s the source of our thoughts, our emotions and our memories. It monitors everything that happens inside our bodies, and it keeps the heart beating, the blood flowing and the lungs working without any conscious effort on our part. Also, it’s responsible for whatever conscious efforts we do make. It’s the original supercomputer.

When a developing fetus is only four weeks old, brain cells form at a rate of a quarter-million per minute. Eventually, billions of neurons will interact and form trillions of connections. Without a brain to control the body, life wouldn’t even be possible.

Due to its importance, you might think the brain would be a little more forthcoming about its design and function. Fortunately, the human brain also provides us with the remarkable ability and ingenuity to study the human brain, a skill in which brains of other life forms decidedly come up short. The study of the brain has yielded remarkable findings, and advances in brain research have created a better understanding of the way we function and life itself.

5: CT Scans

The rise of advanced medical imaging technologies has been a major breakthrough for brain researchers and a major setback for claustrophobics. Many of these scanning techniques have their origins in the 1970s, and it was during this decade that computerized axial tomography (also known as CAT, or CT) scans were developed.

Patients undergoing CT scans recline on a narrow bed, which is fed into a large doughnut-shaped tube that rotates around the patient’s body. The CT scan machine forms a multitude of X-ray images from all different angles (hence the near-total enclosure of the patient). These X-ray images are used to produce cross-sectional images of bone and tissue. While an X-ray gives a single image of a bone fracture, for instance, CT scans provide researchers and doctors with multilayered, 3-D images.

So how does this work in the brain? Researchers inject a patient with an iodine-based substance that blocks X-ray imaging. Then, they follow its course through the brain, locating blockages, lesions or other damage. CT scans have also helped detect abnormalities in the brains of people with psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia.

While CT scans are useful in examining the structure of the brain, researchers developed a different imaging process that uses a magnetic field to provide an even more detailed look at the human brain.

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