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Neuroimaging 101: The Tests

Tuesday, November 08, 2016By Richard Alexander

The brain is one of the most delicate organs of the human body. Thus, in circumstances that necessitate an investigation of the brain, it is vital to preserve the brain’s integrity. This is made possible through noninvasive neuroimaging techniques that capture images of the structures of the brain and its functionalities, without the need to incise the protective skull and have physical contact with the organ.

Neuroimaging has been a great tool in the medical field, especially in diagnosing diseases that involve brain dysfunctions such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. The breakthroughs in neuroimaging techniques have also helped a number of plaintiffs pursue money damages in lawsuits involving brain injuries.

Proving a case of long-term complications of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be challenging, as the symptoms are often observable only during or immediately after the accident. That is, the level of a brain injury is diagnosed when the victim becomes unconscious or experiences dizziness, confusion, and other changes right after an accident. But in a few weeks or months, these signs start to disappear and TBI survivors are generally expected to recover.

Although research shows that most victims of mild TBI can fully recover, some do not. Here are some of the neuroimaging techniques that can be of great help in visualizing the brain of a TBI victim:

  • Structural neuroimaging. This produces images of the brain’s physical features. The goal is identifying brain damage based on irregularities. X-rays, computed tomography (CT/CAT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) are all examples of structural neuroimaging. DTI has recently become very popular in TBI cases due to its ability to detect microscopic abnormalities.
  • Functional neuroimaging. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) are two common techniques used to examine how the brain is functioning. Contrary to structural imaging, which uses x-rays or radiofrequency waves, functional neuroimaging uses “tracers” (radioactive components) to investigate brain function and to find abnormalities in how it is working.
  • Functional MRI (fMRI). This technique is very different from the two mentioned above. This test measure uses a substance in human blood, known as hemoglobin, to see how the brain is actually working. It is believed that certain areas of the brain are activated by performing certain tasks. So, for example, if the victim is asked to read, fMRI will create an “activation map” to that part or parts of the brain responsible for reading. If the relevant parts of the brain do not activate, the neurologist may infer damage to that part of the brain.

Neuroimaging often helps medical professionals understand brain injuries. Neuroimaging is also affecting how personal injury cases are tried after serious accidents.

If someone you love was killed or injured in a crash, contact the Alexander Law Group, LLP today at 888.777.1776. We are a nationally-recognized and award-winning personal injury law firm with offices in San Jose and San Francisco. We are passionate about our clients and our community. If you not sure, read what our clients have to say. All calls are free and confidential.

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