The Next Step in Brain Imaging

For centuries, the scientific community has sought to understand the human condition and has taken innumerable approaches to so. Over time we have developed a better and more comprehensive understanding of how we’ve come about, have survived, and work. In doing so we have developed our knowledge from notions similar to the heart being responsible for our behavior and thought to our current knowledge  that the brain in truth is responsible for all of it.  But this has not been an easy conclusion to come to or prove.  This now everyday and common place notion has relied heavily on and can be directly linked to technological and procedural advancements.  Many of these advancements have been around for decades and are still in use today, such as the EEG; while others, more recent have opened new doors into our understanding and conceptualizing of the brain, like the MRI and even more recent fMRI.  These three only represent a fraction of the ways scientists have attempted to get better looks at the brain without pulling it out of someones skull and harming them.  Let alone still be able to monitor it in real time and study its function.  And with that scientists are still searching and developing better means to do so and see how connections in the brain operate in real time.  And with the developments by scientists at the University of California schools, San Francisco and San Diego, with help from one of the developers of Second Life, the MMORPG, science is a little closer in doing so.

As I said before, researchers at both the University of San Diego and San Francisco, with the help of a video game developer, have come up with a new way to look at the brain and study it’s function and activation in real time, following and mapping out neural impulses associated with particular thoughts and activities in a 3-dimensional and virtually realistic representation of someone’s brain, entitled the Glass Brain Project.  Using the full spectrum of wave occurrence in the brain, (theta, alpha, beta, and gamma), coupled with a high resolution 3D model of a person’s brain offered by an MRI, they have been able to develop this new and alternative approach to imaging and monitoring the brain and it’s neural impulses without requiring a person to sit in the confines of a large machine without much space to move. Below is a video recording of the activation of a woman’s brain as she uses an iPad.

In class we discussed the way in which treatment of schizophrenics are treated for their disorder.  Among them was the help offered by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the changing and restructuring of the thought processes of patients in order to help them cope and live with the disorder in a way that is not disruptive to their everyday lives.  One of the points raised in accordance with this was the idea that in restructuring of the the thought processes and maladaptive behavior that have been learned or developed on their own, in someway causes new connections in the brain and in fact reorients the way in which neurons fire and how this in turn can alter the responsive behavior when stimulated.  Given this new way to visualize and monitor brain activity, it is possible to see the brain of a schizophrenic individual before CBT and give them a particular task in which their response can be monitored on this representation of the brain, and see what specific connections are in fact activating.  Following CBT, the same task could be administered and the same regions monitored and thereafter assess the validity of the the afore mentioned statement.  This could also prove even more helpful if ever used in the effort of scientists to map the brain.  There are so many possibilities that this can afford and so little time for them all to be explored.

Glass Brain Project Website: http://neuroscapelab.com/projects/glass-brain/

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