Lubbock Diagnostic Radiology Blog

How Machines Read Your Brain: What Doctors Can Learn to Help You


November 16, 2017

How Machines Read Your Brain

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the brain involves the use of a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain and brain stem. MRIs help doctors detect a variety of conditions of the brain, including tumors, cysts, bleeding, swelling, and more.

Recent studies of the brain by engineers, who use electrical signals inside of neurons, have revealed new information that is vital in helping doctors learn and treat disorders such as Alzheimer’s and obesity, as well as how neurons interact with other cells.

Learning about Alzheimer’s and its causes

Researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used brain imaging to research the causes of dementia – a disease that affects 10% of people in the U.S. within their lifetime.

Efforts to discover a treatment for Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, have primarily focused on amyloid-B peptides that clump together to form plaques in the brain that eventually lead to neuronal death and cognitive dysfunction.

In the MIT study, however, researchers argued that while amyloid-B levels may start the sequence of events that lead to Alzheimer’s, another series of complex molecular, cellular, network-level, and circuit changes contribute to the disease’s progression.

An even more recent study at MIT found that microglia, immune cells that serve as the nervous system’s damage sensors, play a vital role in the progression of Alzheimer’s. Brain tissue taken from dementia patients showed that microglial cells became entangled with toxic amyloid beta plaques.

Brain cells and appetite

A recent study by MIT neuroscientists revealed that specific brain cells play a huge role in controlling appetite and eating behavior. When activated, the cells – known as glial cells – stimulate overeating, while appetite is suppressed when the cells also are suppressed.

The study’s findings may offer scientists and doctors a new reference point for developing drugs that treat obesity and other appetite-related disorders.

Other common uses of MRI imaging of the brain and head include:

  • Detecting infections
  • Finding the causes of epilepsy
  • Studying and diagnosing chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis
  • Vascular issues such as an aneurysm, arterial blockage, or thrombosis – a blood clot within a vein.
  • Developmental anomalies
  • Disorders of the pituitary gland.
  • To determine if a shunt is working

At Lubbock Diagnostic Radiology, we provide a range of imaging and x-ray procedures to diagnose and treat injuries, disorders, disease, and more.