Brain Imaging is among the most recommended of diagnostic tools in the treatment of neurological disorders. It allows insight into the functional and structural components of the brain that are suspected of malfunctioning. This helps to create a more incisive and objective diagnostic pathway, i.e. by providing real-life insight into brain’s functioning, helping to make better, more accurate prognosis and also assess the progress of the patient. Brain Imaging is often referred to as a part of Neuroimaging which itself represents all imaging techniques used for viewing various parts of the nervous system, particularly the brain. The most commonly used Brain Imaging techniques that have become pervasive in the last decade include:
- Positron Emission Tomography—PET
- Photon Emission Computed Tomography—SPECT
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging—MRI
All these techniques are aimed at helping healthcare practitioners have access to remarkably accurate computer-created images of the brain’s structural composition, allowing them to closely observe various aspects of the neurological functions such as keeping a tab on the neuro-chemical changes that are an essential part of the brain’s functioning.
Positron Emission Tomography
PET uses a radioactive form of imaging. Here emissions from radioactive chemicals are noted. These are chemicals that are artificially injected into the bloodstream of the patient before putting him/her under the scanner. The emission-linked data helps to produce 2/3-dimensional images, i.e. when the chemical spreads within the brain. PET studies use complex machines like cyclotron that are used for labeling different types of drugs so that the accuracy of radioactive imaging is ensured. This includes taking into account the manner in which the body’s natural compounds are likely to react with radioactive agents.
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography
This brain-imaging method is quite similar to PET since this imagining procedure also uses radioactive tracers along with a scanner for creating data that is essentially a representation of the brain’s active parts. It is generally regarded that tracers used in SPECT are a bit less accurate than PET tracers. SPECT tracers tend to deteriorate much slower than PET tracers—this means that SPECT testing takes a longer period and the patient is required to retain the radioactive agent for a longer time. There is also an advantage to using SPECT since the tracers don’t require the presence of heavy machinery like cyclotron. SPECT studies are a bit cheaper, requiring less technical and manpower expertise than PET.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
MRI is among the most used of imaging methods that uses radio-waves instead of radioactive tracers. MRI machineries use advanced sensors for reading the signals interpreting the same into computerized information that helps to construct images of various parts of the brain. Using MRI, brain structures can be explored to a greater degree, helping specialists closely analyze the anatomical details of the brain. New advances in this niche include Functional MRI or fMRI that uses magnetic properties of the human blood for creating images of how blood is flowing within the brain.
Electroencephalography is another brain-imaging technique that uses electrodes placed across the scalp for detecting electrical activity within the brain. EEG has witnessed some major technological advances recently and its data has become much more accurate. It helps neurosurgeons to get accurate data about brain activity, helping them detect the inactive parts of the brain. This also happens to be very effective for detecting brain chemical changes induced by drug abuse.