This area focuses on teaching the history of neuroscience at all educational levels, including public outreach. Public awareness of neuroscience, and ethical and policy issues in neuroscience, are critical to maintaining public support for funding and research.
.. An imaging method that detects and records brain waves.
Electroencephalography (EEG) measures the waves of electrical activity produced by the brain by recording electrical output on the surface of the scalp. As many as 128 small electrodes are attached to the scalp. The electrical activity of the brain (brain waves) is detected by the electrodes and sent on to the electroencephalography machine, which records the activity in a computer and then on a paper printout. Brain waves are a reflection of central functions of the brain, as well as states of consciousness. EEG is used to diagnose a wide range of central nervous system disorders, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke and sleep disorders. In research, the EEG can provide clues about how the brain processes information by comparing brain wave patterns with human activity, such as learning, remembering, talking, etc.
EEG has long been applauded for the accuracy of its electrical brain signals. Today, even greater resolution has been obtained through event-related potentials (ERPs), tiny electrical brain signals produced by the presentation of diverse stimuli. ERPs are fine-tuning scientists’ understanding of the brain. Two recent developments in EEG technology are further enhancing what researchers know about the brain. First, simultaneous “whole brain” activities can be measured concurrently using a new technology called simultaneous digital EEG acquisition. Second, advances in physics and computer technology have led to the new field of “multimodal imaging,” which combines the EEG with other imaging techniques in locating the origin of electrical and magnetic activity inside the brain. EEG can now be combined with MEG, MRI, or PET to produce better computer models of how the brain responds to behavior.
… An imaging technique that allows the magnetic fields of the brain to be detected and recorded.
Magnetoencephalography (MEG), also known as Magnetic Source Imaging (MSI) provides an image of the brain by recording magnetic fields over the surface of the head. These fields are generated by “electric currents” inside the brain, resulting from electrically charged ions flowing within each brain cell. By measuring these magnetic fields, scientists can accurately pinpoint the location of the cells that produce each field. In this way, they can identify zones of the brain that are producing abnormal signals. For example, MEG can be used to:
The MEG Laboratory is located in Hermann Hospital, the teaching hospital of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and is operated by members of the university’sDepartment of Neurosurgery. The following projects are under way in the MEG Laboratory:
Identification of brain zones producing abnormal electric currents associated with epilepsy in patients who are candidates for epilepsy surgery, in collaboration with the university’s Department of Neurology
.. A noninvasive technique that produces computerized images of internal body tissues based on nuclear magnetic resonance of atoms within the body induced by radio waves.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses magnetism and radio waves to produce an image of the inside of the body. This technique is particularly useful for imaging the spinal cord, areas of the head where soft and hard tissue meet, and areas affected by stroke that cannot be seen well on CT scans. MRI often is used in the diagnosis of nerve fiber disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, because of its high-resolution representation of the brain’s white and gray matter.
MRI is based on magnetic properties in the interior (nucleus) of all atoms, including those in living tissue. When radio waves are directed to a specific part of the body, they cause the nuclei of atoms located there to give off energy. This energy is detected, and a computer converts the emerging pattern of magnetic energy into an image that can be interpreted by scientists. MRI has over the years given birth to other MRI-based imaging techniques, including magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). All work on the same basis, are non-invasive, and are used to support and enhance neuroscience research conducted at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. At UT-Houston, MRI is used extensively by scientists conducting basic laboratory research as well as human research in clinical settings. UTHealth has recently acquired a state-of-the-art high field MR scanner dedicated for animal studies. This scanner, which is only one of its kind in the whole southwest United States, is equipped with high power gradient and radio frequency coils for high resolution magnetic resonance studies of living animals. The largest animals that can be scanned are rabbits and small monkeys. The system is also equipped with mini-imaging modules that can be used to image rats and mice with very high resolution. This feature is particularly important in light of the tremendous interest in studying genetically manipulated mice.
Following are other examples of current UTHealth studies using MRI:
Magnetic resonance imaging, because it is noninvasive, allows repeated studies to follow progressive changes in an individual over an extended period and allows scientists to follow delayed changes brought on by trauma. MRI also provides a clear record of central nervous system damage, allowing investigators to see whether or not a particular drug or treatment caused a change.
… An imaging technique that produces a three-dimensional map of brain activity.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) produces a three-dimensional, cross-sectional image of the brain using gamma radiation given off when negatively charged particles called electrons collide with positively charged particles known as positrons. The PET facility at UTHealth can produce 21 image slices simultaneously, and can image the whole brain at one time.
Projects being conducted at the PET Center include:
… A medical imaging technique that uses small amounts of radioactive material (radioisotopes) attached to radiopharmaceuticals to map brain function
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) is a medical imaging technique used for mapping brain metabolism and function. SPECT is similar to positron emission tomography in that once the radio-pharmaceutical is trapped in the brain, radiation is given off as a result of gamma emission. Various radioactive pharmaceuticals are injected into the blood and attach to targets in the brain’s gray matter for several hours. This allows researchers to image up to several hours after injection, yet study activity at the time of injection. Special detectors produce pictures of the radioisotopes in the brain, permitting scientists to distinguish between normal and abnormal tissue. This scanning procedure is somewhat the reverse of a traditional x-ray; instead of the x-rays coming from outside the body, the radiation source is inside the body.
At The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, SPECT technology is used to study:
Across the country, brain SPECT has been used to study various receptors, or groups of cells that receive stimuli. Receptors for the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin have been studied, as well as receptors for opiates. Brain SPECT also can be used in identifying the location of brain tumors and in conjunction with agents that help detect brain tumors. The Division of Nuclear Medicine at UTHealth, for example, uses Thalium-201 to evaluate recurrences of brain tumors after therapy – a process that can be very difficult with technologies that provide only images of structures in the body, such as MRI.