Neurologists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have adapted a brain scanning technique developed for studying the organization of the brain. The novel approach to the scanning might be just what the doctor ordered for traumatic brain injury and stroke patients. If it proves successful, the brain scans will give doctors a tool for predicting the extent of a brain injury and potentially avert some of the damage.
Functional connectivity (FC) is the technique in question. It allows doctors and scientists to observe visual details of the ‘health of brain networks that let multiple parts of the brain collaborate,’ a Washington University article mentioned. Former studies using the same technique have revealed how damage to one part of the brain sometimes leads to disability in other parts. This is part of how FC studies can assist in predicting the extent of brain injuries.
The results of the recent study were published in the March issue of the journal Annals of Neurology. Marurizio Corbetta, MD, professor of Neurology, radiology, and neurobiology said, ‘Clinicians who treat brain injury need new markers of brain function that can predict the effects of injury, which helps us determine treatment and assess its effects. This study shows that FC scans are a potentially useful way to get that kind of information,’ the article continued.
FC scans are done using MRI scanners while patients relax inside the giant machine. MRI scans track various changes in the brain by way of monitoring blood flow. Variations in mental activity lead to changes in the way blood moves and concentrates in the brain. What scientists found in the study was that damage to communication networks between both sides of the brain led to more problems for patients and highlighted the need for a new understanding of how the brain actually functions.
Alex Carter, MD, PhD, and assistant professor of neurology told Washington University of the discovery, ‘It’s not wrong to say that one side of your brain controls the opposite side of your body, but we’re starting to realize that it oversimplifies things.’ He suggested that the two halves of the brain vie for attention and maintain a delicate balance of effort throughout the brain. Further studies of FC are currently in the planning phase.
Purdy, Michael C. (March 22, 2010) ‘Scans of brain networks may help predict injury’s effects.’ Retrieved on March 23, 2010 from the Washington University in St. Louis Web site:http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/20455.aspx