It may surprise you that fMRI brain scanning has only been around for 25 years. Especially since there has been a constant flow of new research findings that have unveiled some incredible facts about the human brain in the last few years.
fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) is a medical imaging procedure that can monitor brain activity. It does this by measuring how blood flows in the brain, which represents areas of activity.
With fMRI scanning, scientists and doctors have been able to study the human brain – and many of its associated mental process, emotions, disorders, diseases, and reactions.
Here are some of the most important and interesting results we’ve seen from fMRI studies in the last ten years:
The fight against Alzheimer’s
In 2013, we learned about a very important brain function associated with sleep. Research from fMRI brain scans found that the brain flushes out neurotoxins while humans are asleep, which essentially is a way of cleaning out the brain. The toxins that are removed during sleep include the protein that is found in clumps in brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Even more reason to take that much-needed nap! Also, don’t forget to exercise: another study proved that people who do strength training exercise are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Not into exercise? Another study suggests that people who drink beer might be able to better fight off dementia…
A recent finding from fMRI scans proved that a new anti-cancer drug could be a promising treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease.
Music to my brain
An fMRI study proved that learning to play an instrument can actually boost brain development.
These findings show that music lessons could be especially beneficial for children with brain development disorders, like autism.
In 2014, scientists achieved brain-to-brain communication – one person actually read another person’s mind… via the internet. In the study, one participant thought about moving their hand, which sent a message via an electroencephalography machine and made the person on the other end (a half mile away) move their hand.
The implications of this study are mind-bending – and a bit scary.
Another brain study demonstrated that scientists could soon have the ability to erase or replace memories after they successfully completed the task on mice.
Replacing or erasing bad memories could be very beneficial for people who have experienced trauma.
Old habits die hard
Researchers recently discovered the part of the brain that ‘stores’ habits. They were also able to erase habits in a study on mice, by using a method called optogenetics.
This could potentially be helpful for addicts or people who suffer from repetitive behaviours.
Treating mental illness
Tonnes of research has been conducted on the brain and mental illness within the last couple of decades, and recent advancements have helped us to much better understand the science behind mental illness.
One study identified that three particular networks in the brain are associated with anxiety disorders, including schizophrenia, OCD, and bipolar disorder.
This could help doctors and psychologists better understand how to ‘train the brain’ in order to effectively treat sufferers of mental illness.
Do you know of any other fMRI research studies worth mentioning? Get in touch with us on Twitter and let us know!
Newcastle Clinic offers open MRI scanning, ultrasound and image intensification services. We do not currently offer fMRI scanning.
Newcastle Clinic is open to discussing research projects that require the use of our medical imaging equipment. Please contact us if you’re interested in partnering on a research project.