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Merging of Two Imaging Techniques Grants New Insights into Brain Function

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The ability to measure brain functions non-invasively is paramount for both clinical diagnoses and research in Neurology and Psychology. Two main imaging techniques have been joined in an attempt to achieve full access into brain functionality in a non-invasive approach: positron emission tomography (PET), which shows metabolic processes in the brain; and activity of different brain regions is measured on the basis of the cells' oxygen use through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). brain funtions on both mri and pet

Originally was quite difficult to acquire a direct comparison of PET and MRI due to the fact that each process had to be performed on a separate machine.

However, in recent development, researchers from the Werner Siemens Imaging Center at the University of Tübingen under the direction and supervision of Professor Bernd J. Pichler in partnership with the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University Hospital Tübingen, and the Tübingen Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have now been able to effectively combine both imaging methods.

Through this latest development, the researchers have been able to explore areas of the brain and its functionalities in larger and greater detail and better determine what course of action would be best to take. Such discoveries were made possible by the use of a PET insert enabling complementary, as well as concurrent PET/MRI scans. It was developed and constructed at the University of Tübingen.

The researchers could recognize, in particular areas, a disparity between glucose metabolism related brain activation measured with PET and oxygenation related signals, measured with MRI. In addition, information about functional connectivity in the brain could result from MRI and from dynamic PET data. These results serve to further decode the nature of brain function, and are most useful for basic research as well as clinical practice.

In PET imaging the allocation of a weakly radioactive substance is revealed in cross sections of the body, allowing physicians to view several different metabolic and physiological functions at work.

Functional MRI (fMRI) enables researchers to describe changes in blood oxygenation that are connected to brain function. This measurement of functional active brain regions is also crucial for the planning of brain surgeries, where meticulous care must be taken in certain areas. The ability to gather different types of data from various scans simultaneously represents a major step forward in the fields utilizing these new found technologies.

The study, conducted by lead author Dr. Hans Wehrl of Professor Bernd J. Pichler's research team is set to be published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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