Video transcript: How does the brain change with age? Part #2: MRI brain imaging

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July 2013

Video shows a volunteer being shown MRI scanner and how it works 

Diane Everson, MRI Radiographer, MRC CBU, Cambridge
Ok, if you would like to come through now. What I would like you to do first of all is sit on the couch here and I will explain to you what we are going to be doing. Your head is going to be lying in this head collar here, the top of your head with a mask over your face and then there is a mirror on top of that so when the couch is at this height you'll be able to see the screen at the other end. Ok, alright?

Professor Rik Henson, Cam-CAN Co-Investigator, MRC CBU, Cambridge
The test that they do in the MRI scanner take about an hour and there are various types. The first case we acquire a structural image. So this tells us the shape and the size and different tissue types in each person's brain. Then we run a sequence which is called diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI, which allows us to look at the white matter tracks that connect different parts of the brain together.

Video shows volunteer in MRI scanner

Diane Everson
Hi. Are you ok in there?


Hello. Yes.

Diane Everson
Ok. Well I can hear you clearly. Can you hear me clearly?


Diane Everson
That's great, well done. So we have just got to check a couple of things before we start. If you could squeeze that buzzer, I know you can, but just do it again for me.

Beeping sound

That's lovely, thank you.

Professor Rik Henson
We then do a resting state scan where people again just lie still and relax and for that we are measuring the changes in blood oxygenation, or blood flow, as the brain is at rest.

Video shows computer screen with MRI scans of the brain

We also do several other sequences which have different MR contrasts that give us different sensitivity to the amount of myelin in the brain. So the myelin is the fatty tissue that is around those cells which also is impaired as we get older.

Diane Everson
Ok, we are just going to do the scan with the task now. Is that alright?


Diane Everson
Ok, so you just need to remember each and every time you see checker boards on the screen just press your index finger button once.

Video shows checker boards and beeps

Each time you hear sounds just press again once and when there is a combination of checker boards and sounds again you need to just press it once ok? Well done.

Professor Rik Henson
We also do a very simple task where people see visual flashes, they hear tones, and they press a key and this is called our sensory motor task. It's a very easy task to do that allows us to trace out which parts of the brain are active when we see things, hear things or do things. And that same task we can also do in the MEG scanner so we can now, using the higher temporary resolution MEG, we can look at how connectivity between the visual area, the audiometry area and the motor area change over time. So during that one hour of MRI they actually do a number of different scans which are all tuned finely to detect different aspects of the brain's structure and resting sleep function.

Diane Everson
Each time somebody comes for the first time they get a picture of their brain to take away so I am just going to prepare that.

Video shows computer screen with MRI scans of the brain

So again we've got the three sections but this is off the structural scan we just done. I am just going to scroll down through the head, we're at the top of the head for the moment, just coming to the top part of the brain and you can just see the folds of the cerebrum at the top there. The two hemispheres and the interhemispheric pressure providing the two hemispheres. The right hemisphere on the left. And then going on down through the brain we get to the ventricles there [inaudible] going down to the ventricular area. Down to the different parts, to the eyes, and then into the hydro part of the brain and the cerebellum and you also have the brain [inaudible] there as well. But for the image, we give them an image through the ventricular area of the brain. And this is what they take away. Is that clear?

Video shows a colour printed image of the MRI brain scan



This video may be reproduced in its entirety with due credit to BBSRC.

All media (c) BBSRC unless otherwise stated.

Music 'Shipment' by Alex Arrowsmith from www.cinephonix.com

BBSRC wishes to thank cognition unit staff and Cam-CAN interviewers:

  • Kim Norman (motor learning)
  • Aldabra Stoddart (MRI imaging)
  • Jessica Penrose (MEG imaging)