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Give thanks this Thursday—and always
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"neuroBLOGical" turns 1!
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Jordan Gaines
Pennsylvania State University USA

A blog on biology, psychology, cognition, learning, memory, aging, and everything in between. Explaining recent discoveries in neuroscience, translated to language we can all understand!

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Today I participated in a brain imaging study! I laid in an MRI machine for 45 minutes and looked at pictures of chocolate while smelling chocolate odors. Tough life, right? (Hershey really is the sweetest place on Earth...even in the labs!)

The MRI machine is rather big, rather loud (I wore headphones), and...rather claustrophobic—but it operates on a rather GENIUS principle! My brain was imaged every two seconds; eventually, the images will be overlaid to create a complete picture of my brain, so it was important that I remain very still.

Some of you may have undergone an MRI so a doctor could examine a particular body part due to injury or to diagnose a problem. The MRI machine works on the principle of magnetism; essentially, the images you're seeing are comprised of the nuclei of the atoms in your body.

The protons of the nucleus (shown in green) are positively-charged. When exposed to the very powerful magnet of the MRI machine, the protons of your atoms become aligned with the direction of the magnetic field.

A radio frequency transmitter is repeatedly turned on and off, which produces an electromagnetic field and causes the protons to spin in the opposite direction. This change causes a radio frequency signal to be generated, and is detected by coils in the machine.

Contrary to popular belief, the MRI is a very safe procedure that does not give off ionic radiation (like X-rays).

The images are taken in slices beginning from the outside and working its way in—that's why my brain structures look smaller or bigger in some areas, and why my nose doesn't show up until the end. And now, without further ado, the brains behind 'neuroBLOGical':

Eventually, when the lab technicians overlay these images, they will be able to create a 3D image of my entire brain, which will look something like this:

Pretty cool, huh?

Images courtesy Heart Healthy Women, Space Inspired, and PSU Hershey NMR Center.

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It is interesting the internal bias that I have. Seeing mostly elderly patients or sick people, I looked at your MRI and said to myself Why does it look weird?

Then I realized that it looks weird because you are young and healthy.

Thanks for sharing!


Jordan Gaines
Pennsylvania State University
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Thanks! What do you typically see in the elderly/sick...lots of gaps?

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Yes. Although I would describe it more as empty space. Your brain looks a lot more "plump". 


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I also had a couple MRI sessions while watching a video of someone throwing a tennis ball in different ways. I was so boring (and noisy!!!). The other part of the study involved me throwint a tennis ball in the same way.

I think the best of that experience is that I got a picture of my brain!!  plus I got paid :)

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