Brain Images:
Unlocking the Brain's Mysteries

By M. Chris Wolf, PH.D. and Memory Loss Staff

Brain images? It used to be that the brain was a complete mystery. However, with the advent of state-of-the-art medical equipment that can show specific and highly accurate images of the brain, not only is the doctor capable of seeing what is going on in the brain but the patient himself, if he so chooses, can see what his brain looks like.

Brain images reveal proteins in the brain among other changes or anomalies. These proteins are the red flag that physicians look for when diagnosing Alzheimers disease. The brain scan actually lights up the amyloid plague or clumps of gluey proteins in the brain, which can indicate the presence of Alzheimers. However, a person can have amyloid plaque and not have Alzheimers yet those with Alzheimers do have a build-up of this type of plaque in their brain, according to a report done by Amy Burkholder of CBS.

When a person is afflicted with Alzheimers, brain tissue shrinks and sulci or furrows and grooves in the brain widen. The gyri in the brain shrink. A gyrus is a well-established fold in the outer layer of the brain. The chambers or ventricles in the brain that have cerebrospinal fluid in them get bigger. This can be observed on an image of the brain.

The first area of the brain affected when Alzheimers strikes isthe hippocampus where the cells deteriorate, which causes short-term memory to diminish. As the disease progresses, the outer layer of the brain or the cerebral cortex becomes less functional. This is when the individual may experience language difficulties, emotional eruptions and poor judgment, according to Alzheimers Disease Research, which is a program of the American Health Assistance Foundation.

As the disease runs rampant, more and more brain cells die, which results in behaviors such as agitation and roaming. When the disease reaches its peak, the individual may no longer recognize his family and friends and is incapable of communicating. He may not be able to control his bodily functions.

The changes in the brain and the progress of these changes can be monitored via brain images. Doctors often use brain imaging to diagnose Alzheimers because the scans show any alterations in the brain that are consistent with Alzheimers. Brain imaging capabilities are a wonderful diagnostic tool.

When a person is in the late stages of Alzheimers it is quite common for the brain to atrophy or get smaller, which can be seen when an image of the brain is taken. A patient may undergo a CAT scan, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or an EEG, which is electroencephalography. Other brain imaging options include PET, which is positron emission tomography, and SPECT scans, which reveal brain abnormalities associated with Alzheimers.

Also see Alzheimer's Disease Research

Visit Brain Mapping

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Causes of Memory Loss

For more information about this topic consider these resources:

Human Brain Anatomy in Computerized Images by Hanna Damasio M.D.

Functional Neuroanatomy, 2nd Edition: Text and Atlas (LANGE Basic Science)by Adel Afifi and Ronald Bergman

Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple by Stephen Goldberg



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