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Cognitive Psychology 2341: Chapter 2: The Brain: An Overview of Structure and Function

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Although an important diagnostic tool in neuropsychology, CAT (PET and SPECT) scans are used less often than a newer brain-imaging technique of MRI. Like CAT scans, MRI provides information about neuroanatomy. Unlike CAT scans, however, MRI requires no exposure to radiation and often permits clearer pictures, as you can see in a picture of an MRI scan of a brain. Someone undergoing an MRI typically likes inside a tunnel-like structure that surrounds the person with a strong magnetic field. Radio waves are detected at the head (or whatever body structure is being scanned), causing the centres of the hydrogen atoms in those structures to align themselves in predictable ways. Computers collapse information about how the atoms are aligning and produce a composite three-dimensional image from which any desired ceos-section can be examined further. MRI scans are often the technique of choice, as they now produce textbook quality anatomy pictures of a brain. However, not everyone can undergo an MRI scan. The magnetic fields generated in an MRI scan interfere with electrical fields, so people with pacemakers are not candidates for MRI scan (pacemakers generate electrical signals). Nor are people with metal in their bodies, such as a surgical clip on an artery or a metal shaving in the eye. The magnetic field could dislodge the metal in the body, causing trauma. Metal anchored on hard surfaces, such as dental fillings, is not a problem. Because MRIs require people to lie very still in a tunnel-like machine that often leaves little room for arm movements, people with claustrophobia are also not good candidates for this technique.

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