MRI may help determine depression treatment: MRI study

A new MRI study published recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined the possibility of using MRI scans of of the brain to determine whether CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or antidepressants would be the appropriate course of action for treating a patient’s depression.

The study, entitled Functional Connectivity of the Subcallosal Cingulate Complex and Differentiated Brain MRI, image by AIM Medical ImagingOutcomes to Treatment with Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy or Antidepressant Medication for Major Depressive Disorder was performed by researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

Using a rating system called the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), the researchers recruited 122 participants for the study, and had them undergo MRI brain scans before submitting to randomized treatment for depression (CBT or antidepressants for 12 weeks). “All depressions are not equal and, like different types of cancer, different types of depression will require specific treatments. Using these scans, we may be able to match a patient to the treatment that is most likely to help them, while avoiding treatments unlikely to provide benefit,” said lead author Dr. Helen Mayberg.

Of the 122 participants, a majority of them achieved remission at 10-12 weeks. 24 patients reported treatment failure, however, so more research needs to be done. The study authors concluded: “Imaging-based depression subtypes defined using resting-state functional connectivity differentially identified an individual’s probability of remission or treatment failure with first-line treatment options for major depression. This biomarker should be explored in future research through prospective testing and as a component of multivariate treatment prediction models.”

Exercise and Osteoarthritis: MRI Study

In something of a Catch-22, osteoarthritis patients are often instructed to exercise to alleviate some of their pain symptoms–but those same pain symptoms may prevent an exercise routine from being formed. Although many sufferers of osteoarthritis may wish to work out, the possibility of further injury is a daunting one.

Knee MRIRecently, Canadian researchers tackled the conundrum in an MRI study focusing on how best to apply exercise to an existing pain condition like osteoarthritis. The study, performed by researchers at McMaster University and entitled ‘Acute changes in knee cartilage transverse relaxation time after running and bicycling‘, posits that not exercising may be as harmful as over-exercising.

The study recruited 15 volunteers who underwent MRI scans of their knees before and after a 15-minute run and a 46-minute bike ride. Specifically, the researchers were measuring “transverse relaxation time,” ie. water’s ability to move around freely within cartilage. Interestingly, bicycling showed no changes in relaxation time, while running did. “People often jump to the conclusion that running equals ‘bad’ and bicycling equals ‘good,” says lead author of the study, and grad student, Anthony Gatti. “I don’t think that this is the case.”

Another interesting finding from this study was that participants who had a more extensive history of physical activity showed less deformation of cartilage.

New Findings on ADHD: MRI Study

New findings in a large MRI study on ADHD suggest the disorder is more neurological than behavioural.

The study, self-described by its researchers as the largest-ever MRI study on ADHD–indeed, it’s titled Subcortical brain volume differences in participants with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults: a cross-sectional mega-analysis–was published Wednesday in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The researchers evaluated more than 3,200 MRI brain scans of participants aged 4-63, comparing 1,713 people with ADHD to a control group.

52-preschoolThe study claims that the scans of participants with ADHD collectively showed smaller brain volume, significantly so in five subcortical regions, but also in general. The amygdala and hippocampus, brain regions responsible for emotional processing, were both indicated, surprising the researchers. Crucially, the differences were more marked in children than in adults.

Referring to these visible brain differences, lead author of the study, Dr. Martine Hoogman, said: “These differences are very small — in the range of a few percent — so the unprecedented size of our study was crucial to help identify these. Similar differences in brain volume are also seen in other psychiatric disorders, especially major depressive disorder.”

The authors of the study hope their findings will help readers to reflect on prevailing opinions about ADHD. “The results from our study confirm that people with ADHD have differences in their brain structure and therefore suggest that ADHD is a disorder of the brain,” said Dr. Hoogman. “We hope that this will help to reduce stigma that ADHD is ‘just a label’ for difficult children or caused by poor parenting.”

Pregnancy leads to changes in brain structure: MRI study

A study published last month in the journal of Nature Neuroscience used MR imaging to research the changes in the brain brought about by pregnancy. The study, entitled ‘Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure’, discovered a reduction of gray matter regions pertaining to social cognition in the brains of pregnant women.

The research was conducted in Spain, and scanned the brains of 25 first-time mothers before and after Brain MRI in pregnancygiving birth, and then again two years later. For a control group, the researchers also scanned 17 men and 20 women without children. The structural changes in the brains of the pregnant women were so constant that the researchers were easily able to separate the research subjects from the control group, using only the brain images.

Consistently, the researchers observed something called “gray matter pruning”, a phenomenon in which unnecessary neural connections already formed in the gray matter are left to shrink and fade away in order to make room for new, more specialized neural connections and attachments. “The gray matter volume changes of pregnancy significantly predicted the quality of mother-to-infant attachment and the absence of hostility towards their newborns in the postpartum period,” wrote the authors of the study. Furthermore, this preliminary research showed these changes in brain structure can last up to two years or longer.

Virtual doctor visits are the future of healthcare

Who wants to leave the house sick or be inconvenienced waiting for a doctor’s appointment just to refill a routine prescription? No one!

Watch the video below to see how GOeVisit is the future of patient-centric healthcare.



Lying gets easier with practice: MRI Study

Avoiding confrontation, not hurting someone’s feelings, securing a better position for yourself–there are many reasons why people bend the truth from time to time. While everyone has told a “little white lie,” a new study suggests that so-called innocent lies may be a gateway into a more consistent, pathological habit.

Source: WikipediaThe MRI study, entitled The brain adapts to dishonesty, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that the amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for “fight or flight,” plays an integral role in the telling of lies.

“When we lie for personal gain, our amygdala produces a negative feeling that limits the extent to which we are prepared to lie,” said Dr. Tali Sharot, a lead author of the study. “However, this response fades as we continue to lie and the more it [does] the bigger our lies become. This may lead to a slippery slope where small acts of dishonesty escalate into more significant lies.

The amgydala wasn’t the only brain region that lit up during the MRI scanning, but it did feature the most prominently. The researchers speculate that liars may develop a tolerance to the initial negative emotional response they feel when lying, similar to developing a tolerance to pain or the negative effects of alcohol. “The first time you cheat, say, on your taxes, you feel bad about it. But that’s good, it curbs your dishonesty,” said Dr. Sharot. “Next time you cheat, you’ve already adapted. There’s less of a negative reaction to hold you back, and you might lie more.”



BC Cancer Agency study hopes to detect early signs of cancer

Vancouver has become an international leader in cancer research! AIM’s Whole Body Diffusion MRI detects cancer in its earliest stages, and the BC Cancer Agency is conducting developmental research on a blood test that should be able to detect early signals of cancer.

The study will look at the blood of 1000 participants aged 55-70, all of whom have no indication of cancercancer in their prior health history. The study is looking specifically for signs of cancer in the DNA of the participants.

The researchers speculate that the blood test will be able to detect 96 different gene mutations found in several different types of cancer.

Of course, early detection means better treatment options and higher likelihood of remission. The study is expected to finish up by September 2017, but ongoing studies are expected after that.

““There will have to be a bigger study done after this one to fully characterize this screening test,” said lead researcher Dr. Alan Nichol. “And from information in that future study, we might be able to learn more about the intervals that are required to do the testing and how often we would find cancer if the test is repeated.”

Does brain size matter? MRI Study

It’s never a compliment to be called a “birdbrain” or a “peabrain.” But does brain size even matter? According to researchers from the University of Southern California, it might.

In a new study published Monday in Nature Neuroscience, scientists scanned 32, 438 adults in one of the biggest studies to date in the ongoing research to better understand the human brain. The human-brain-750x590researchers, led by study author Paul Thompson, identified five new gene ‘hubs’ in the brain that predict brain growth and potential. Brains reach their maximum size usually when a person is in their early 20s. And, although the scientists are still unclear on an optimal brain size, they agree that brains that are too large or too small may cause abnormal cognitive development.

“The genes underlying brain development have far-reaching effects that extend well beyond the initial years of life. You have genes that are beneficial for you and help build brain structures early in life. Yet some of these are harmful later in life and promote diseases such as Parkinson’s,” said Thompson. “This research is on the leading edge of cracking the brain’s genetic code. Millions of people carry variations in their DNA that help boost or lower their brains’ susceptibility to a vast range of diseases. Once we identify these genes, we can target them with drugs to reduce the risk of disease. People also can take preventive steps through exercise, diet and mental stimulation to erase the effects of a bad gene.”

Researchers induce feelings about faces: MRI Study

A new MRI study has located the cingulate cortex as the brain region responsible for forming positive or negative associations with people’s faces. The researchers also experimented with manipulating the emotional responses of their subjects, ie. inducing them to feel a certain way about certain faces.Image: Stock photo

“Face recognition is a very important social function for people,” said Takeo Watanabe, co-author of the new study from Brown University. “Facial recognition is associated with people’s emotions.”

The study, published in PLOS Biology, could lead to advancements in treating mood and anxiety disorders, say the researchers, but the findings could also be harmful and used in brainwashing. The technique is called DECNEF, which stands for decoded neurofeedback. Using DECNEF on MR images of the cingulate cortex, the researchers looked at study participants’ reactions to pictures of various faces. They recorded their emotional responses to the faces, then showed the face pictures again briefly before asking the participants to perform a task for a reward. Unbeknownst to the participants, they were rewarded only when their emotional response matched the brain activity the researchers were trying to produce. When they were shown the face pictures again at a later time, their feelings had shifted from their initial responses to the responses the researchers had induced.

These tests took place over a period of several days; the researchers estimate that stronger responses could be induced after a longer period.

MRI-guided ultrasound a non-surgical option for essential tremor

Essential tremor, a neurological disorder that affects millions of people, is not a terminal condition but is one that greatly impedes upon quality of life. Characterized by continuous and rhythmic shaking, most often occurring in the hands or voice, sufferers of essential tremor are unable to perform routine tasks such as tying shoelaces or picking up a fork.

In the past, treatments for essential tremor involved drilling into the brain to implant electrodes designed to shock the brain out of abnormal patterns caused by the disorder. Now, a non-invasive

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

therapy has been constructed thanks to MRI and ultrasound. A new study, A Randomized Trial of Focused Ultrasound Thalamotomy for Essential Tremor, was published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research involved live-action MRI scanning of the brain which enabled researcher to zero in on the areas in the thalamus where the essential tremor has its origins. Once the area is in focus, the researchers zapped it with a ultra focused laser beam, a process known as a sonification. Some patients saw an immediate improvement of their symptoms, but the procedure is not yet free of side effects such as gait interferences and numbness.

““In the (treatment) group, we saw almost a 50 per cent reduction in tremor in the treated arm,” said Dr. Nir Lipsman, a Toronto neurosurgeon and lead researcher in the study. ““Our ultimate goal is to reduce the risk to zero and make this as safe a procedure as possible, while retaining its benefits.”


Brains of obese look 10 years older at middle age: MRI Study

Packing on the pounds may increase your body mass index, but it won’t increase brain volume, according to a new MRI study. Although the human brain inevitably shrinks as it ages, researchers have found that the brains of obese subjects appear 10 years older at middle age than their fitter counterparts.

The UK study, entitled Obesity associated with increased brain-age from mid-life, and published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, scanned the brains of 473 participants. Using BMI as classification, 246

White matter represented in yellow with lean subject on left and obese subject on right.

White matter represented in yellow with lean subject on left and obese subject on right.

of the participants were lean, 150 were overweight and 77 were obese. The subjects were divided into two groups (lean and overweight) to have their cognitive abilities tested and their brains scanned.

The researchers noticed that the volume of white matter (the region of the brain responsible for communication between various brain networks) in the overweight group was significantly less than the lean subjects. Furthermore, brain scans of 50 year-old obese subjects resembled scans of 60 year-old lean subjects.

Lead author of the study, Professor Paul Fletcher of the University of Cambridge, said, “We’re living in an aging population, with increasing levels of obesity, so it’s essential that we establish how these two factors [white matter and obesity] might interact, since the consequences for health are potentially serious.”

At this point, the researchers can’t say whether obesity is a consequence of changes to white matter, or if it’s the other way around.

Similarities in brains of children with autism, OCD and ADHD: MRI study

A Canadian MRI study has found similarities in the brain scans of children with autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and ADHD. The team of Toronto researchers imaged the white matter of 200 young participants in the landmark study. Up until now, autism, OCD and ADHD have been classified and studied as three separate disorders, despite having behavioural similarities.

Image courtesy:

The scientists’ decision to look at white matter was crucial, as white matter is the connective tissue made up of nerve fibres that facilitate communication between the different regions of the brain. “We found impairments in white matter in the main tract connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain in children with either autism, ADHD or OCD, when compared to healthy children in the control group,” said Dr. Stephanie Ames, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and lead author of the study.

The researchers also found impairments to white matter more substantial in children with autism and ADHD, while OCD subjects were less severe. Dr. Ames speculates this may have something to do with the earlier onset of autism and ADHD, which takes place during a critical and rapid stage of brain development.

The Canadian study is part of an initiative in Ontario that aims to better understand and treat childhood brain disorders.

Lose weight by drinking more water: MRI study

You’re not hungry, you’re thirsty. It’s almost too easy: dieters everywhere have heard this advice for decades, but now it’s been backed up by MRI science.

The study, conducted by Wageningen University in the Netherlands, worked with 19 participants to collect the data. Done in three parts, the research looked at MRI scans of Glass-of-waterthe stomach, of the brain, and quizzed participants on how satisfied they were after their meals. Each participant was given a large milkshake followed by either a small (50 mL) or large (350 mL) glass of water; the stomach MRI revealed that the larger glass of water doubled the stomach content as opposed to the small glass. Additionally, the subjects claimed they felt fuller and more satisfied.

When the researchers studied the brain MRI scans, they found that the region of the brain called the mid-temporal gyrus was activated in association with increased water intake. The researchers will use this information to continue studying how simple resolutions like drinking more water at mealtime can promote healthier eating habits.

Says Guido Camps, lead author of the study: “…we’ve found that simply adding water increases stomach distension, curbs appetite in the short term and increases regional brain activity.”

Knee problems common in basketball players: MRI study

While there are injuries inherent in every sport, few expose players to such fast-paced stop-start motions in the lower joints the way basketball does. (Squash is another sport that exposes players to jerking movements, but it has nothing on basketball in terms of popularity!)

A recent study published June 22 in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine used MRI to study the knees of 12 male and 12 female NCAA Devision 1 b-ball players pre and post-season. Interestingly, none of the players were complaining of major pain.”Every knee had at least one structural abnormality both preseason and postseason,” reported the research team from Stanford University.

The postseason scans, however, showed much more significant damage than the preseason ones. The researchers noticed a higher occurrence of fat pad edema, patellar tendinopathy, quadriceps tendinopathy and bone marrow edema.

“A high prevalence of abnormal knee MRI findings was observed in a population of asymptomatic young elite athletes,” the researchers concluded.“These preliminary data suggest that high-intensity basketball may have potentially deleterious effects on articular cartilage.”

Saturated fats linked to breast cancer in postmenopausal women: MRI study

While unrestrained weight gain always brings with it a greater chance of cancer, new research into breast cancer in postmenopausal women has found a link between the type of fats being consumed. A highly occurrence of saturated fats (found mainly in meats, butter, cheeses, creams and palm oils) in the breasts has been linked to higher incidence of cancer, according to a new MRI study.

The study, published June 7 in the journal Radiology, is an important one because its findings breast-cancerhighlight a probable dietary (and therefore preventable) link to a disease that afflicts so many modern women. “Our study offers the first evidence–seen in breast tissue–that high saturated fatty acids in the breast adipose tissue is associated with presence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women,” said Dr. Sungheon G. Kim, a lead author of the study.

For the study, 89 patients were weighed and measured and had their BMI tested. Then, the women underwent MRI scans specially equipped with a new technique called gradient-echo spectroscopic imaging, which is able to differentiate between the different types of fat found in the breast tissue. The results showed the greater the incidence of saturated fats, and the lower the incidence of monounsaturated fatty acids, the greater the incidence of breast cancer.

The schizophrenic brain attempts to repair itself: MRI study

Few diseases are stigmatized as much as schizophrenia, or other similar mental health illnesses. But things are looking up: according to new MRI research, brains afflicted with schizophrenia show an ability to identify and fight off the disease.

The study, entitled Dynamic cerebral reorganization in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia: a MRI-derived cortical thickness study, was published Thursday in the journal Psychological Medicine.

The study, led by researchers from Lawson Health Research Institute, used MRI to look at the brains of 98 schizophrenic patients, and 83 control subjects. The researchers were particularly

Image: Palaniyappan et al

interested in looking at the varying thicknesses of the cortical grey matter. “Robust changes in grey matter are observed using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with schizophrenia both before and after the onset of psychosis, and are linked to the clinical features of the illness,” said Lena Palaniyappan, a lead author of the study. “Rather controversially, these neuroanatomical changes have been argued to be progressive in nature, indicating a deteriorating pathophysiological process.”

However, the study has found that the brain attempts to rectify the changes schizophrenia has imposed upon it: “Our results highlight that despite the severity of tissue damage, the brain of a patient with schizophrenia is constantly attempting to reorganize itself, possibly to rescue itself or limit the damage,” Palaniyappan said.

The study contradicts a long-held notion that schizophrenia is an exclusively degenerative illness.

MRI study explores effects of mom’s voice on child’s brain

While it comes as no surprise that MRI scans reveal powerful activity in infants’ brains upon hearing the voices of their mothers, scientists were looking for more specific information. “Many of our social, language and emotional processes are learned by listening to our mom’s voice,” said study author Daniel Abrams. “But surprisingly little is known about how the brain organizes itself around this very important sound source.”

The Stanford researchers used MRI to scan the brains of 24 children aged 7-12, and played them recordings of their own mothers reciting nonsensical words. (Two childless women also volunteered as controls). Upon hearing their mothers voices, the brains of the children activated in several different areas:

Mother and Child Brain MRI-primary auditory cortex (sound)

-amygdala (emotions)

-mesolimbic reward pathway and medial prefrontal cortex (assigning values to stimuli)

-default mode network (sense of self)

-and brain regions responsible for processing and recognizing faces

“…surprisingly little is known about how the brain organizes itself around this very important sound source,” said study co-author Vinod Menon. “Nobody had really looked at the brain circuits that might be engaged. We wanted to know: Is it just auditory and voice-selective areas that respond differently, or is it more broad in terms of engagement, emotional reactivity and detection of salient stimuli?”

Trees in the MRI: drought study

Recent tree-ring is data suggesting BC is facing its harshest droughts in 350 years. California is bracing itself for yet another year of drought.

So it is fitting, and timely, that scientists are studying the effect of drought using the best –and that includes the latest in medical imaging technology. An Australian study, led by Dr. Brendan Choat MRIfrom the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, scanned tree branches using MRI and CT to learn how extended drought periods affect the absorption of water in the trees.

“Traditionally, researchers looking to monitor the health of trees were forced to use techniques that were indirect and prone to inaccuracies, such as removing tree branches and spinning them in centrifuges,” said Dr. Choat. “This study shows that we can have much more confidence in our results by taking the advanced imaging technology we currently use on human patients in hospitals and applying it to plants to monitor their health. This provides a new window into how plants respond to environmental stresses.”

The study was published in the Journal of Plant Physiology.

CT scans linked to high cancer costs

It’s not exactly a secret that CT technology, although useful in its diagnostic application, has harmful effects due to the large amounts of ionizing radiology associated with it. But it wasn’t until just weeks ago that anyone was aware that the cost of treating cancers induced by CT scanning in the US numbered in the hundred millions.

“CT imaging has a small theoretical risk of inducing cancer,” said Dr. Matthew Covington of the Comparison of AIM MRI to other diagnostic imaging typesUniversity of Arizona, one of the authors of a new body of research that analyzed data about the correlation between CT scans and cancer costs. “…the costs of treating even a proportionally small number of CT-induced cancers may be significant, given the high expense of cancer treatment,” he said.

In their study, the researchers estimated that the risk for developing CT induced cancer in a lifetime is 5.5 out of 10,000. Using the data they collected–85 million CT scans performed in 2012–the researchers determined these scans will cause 46,750 new incidences of cancer over the lifetime of the population.

“Providing the first estimates of these costs allows more accurate economic valuation of CT imaging and argues for continued dose reduction,” Covington said.

The future of diagnostic imaging really is in MRI.

Words stored in specific brain regions: MRI Study

Another brain fMRI study, another step closer to mind reading! Researchers from Berkeley have mapped out a “semantic atlas”–that is, an interactive map of which words activate what areas of the brain. The study, Natural speech reveals the semantic maps that tile human cerebral cortex, has just been published in Nature.

Check out the video below to learn about what’s happening in your brain when someone speaks to you.

Spoiler alert: it’s fascinating!

First ever look at the brain on LSD: MRI study

In the 1950s and 60s, researchers at the forefront of neuroscience and psychology experimented with LSD for PTSD and depression. Despite the positive effects of treatments (which came in small doses in controlled environments) the drug and corresponding research on its therapeutic benefits were banned in North America in the late sixties.

Newly published research which used MRI for the first time to look at the brains of subjects on LSD is being called a milestone study by neuroscience and consciousness researchers around the world. “This is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics,” says David Nutt, lead author of the study. Nutt is professor of neuropsychopharmocology at the Imperial College of London, and is also the former drugs advisor to the UK government.

Image courtesy: NewScientist

For the study 20 healthy volunteers were recruited, having their brains scanned once after receiving a placebo, and once after receiving a 75 mcg dose of LSD. The latter scans showed a decrease in coordination in the brain’s default mode network regions which corresponded with the participants’ own ratings of their sense of ego dissolution. Furthermore, the LSD scans showed greater connectivity and between different brain regions which normally don’t communicate, as seen in the image.

“This is why psychedelics in general but also LSD are special,” said Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London, another author of the study. “They really alter consciousness in this fundamental way and therefore they are very powerful tools to understand the nature of consciousness.”

Diffusion MRI study looks into insomnia

Although it can’t claim to have found out what causes those sleepless nights, a new MRI study has shed some light on the mysterious common sleeping disorder known as insomnia.

For the study, published recently in the Radiology  journal, researchers based in Guangzhou, mobile phone addict man awake in bed using internetChina, scanned the brains of 23 clinical insomniacs (patients whose restless sleeping habits are not attributable to an environmental, medical or psychological cause) and 30 participants with optimal sleeping patterns. Each participant answered a questionnaire about how much and what quality of sleep they believed they were getting, as well as their self-assessed levels of anxiety and depression.

Then, each participant had their brain scanned by diffusion MRI. Diffusion MRI, which is offered at AIM Medical Imaging, is the imaging of the blockage or flow of water at a cellular level. It is a definitive imaging technique for spotting lesions, tumors–or in this case–spotting water movements along white matter tracts to identify connections or abnormalities in the brain’s network of connections.

The findings revealed that the integrity of the white matter connections in insomnia patients was significantly reduced.

“White matter tracts are bundles of axons, or long fibers of nerve cells, that connect one part of the brain to another,” said study author Shumei Li. “If white matter tracts are impaired, communication between brain regions is disrupted.”

Take the stairs for better brain health: MRI study

To ride the elevator or climb the stairs may not seem like an important decision, but when it’s a decision you make every day it could have lasting implications on not only your physical fitness, but your cognitive function as well.

A new Canadian MRI study from researchers at Concordia University has found that younger-stairslooking brains have two things in common: ongoing education and daily exercise on the stairwell. Scanning the brains of 331 healthy participants ages 19-79, scientists at Concordia’s PERFORM research centre in Montreal found that brain age decreases 0.95 years for every year of education, and 0.58 years for every daily climb up a set of stairs.

The brain’s gray matter naturally decreases with age; the researchers correlate the term “brain age” with remaining volume of gray matter in an individual’s MRI results.

“Every day we’re assessed with the choice of taking the stairs, taking the elevator, taking the escalator,” says professor Jason Steffener, the director of the research. “So it’s something that can be easily added to our daily routine.”


AIM collaborating in large Canada-wide MRI study

Over the next several months AIM will be providing imaging for a major cross-country MRI research study that seeks to illustrate patterns in heart and brain health of Canadians from coast to coast.

The Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds, or CAHHM, will study the MRI results of approximately 9700 participants of varying ages, backgrounds and locales looking at risk factors and early causes of heart disease and stroke.

The study has three main objectives:

-understanding the role of lifestyle and environmental factors on common heart, brain and blood vessel diseases

-understanding cultural and immigration factors that impact health in individuals of different ethnic backgrounds

-identifying early markers of dysfunction in the heart, brain, blood vessels and abdomen using MRI

AIM is honored to be assisting CAHHM in such worthwhile research!

The brighter side of adolescent peer pressure: MRI studies

Adolescents are known for their risk taking. Health experts in privileged countries like ours cite preventable, often self-inflicted mishaps as the biggest risk to teenage well-being. But while the negative effects of peer pressure are well-known, less known are the more positive characteristics (faster learning and self exploration) attributed to the risks associated with group mentality in teens.

An MRI study entitled Risk Taking in Late Adolescence: Relations Between Sociomoral Reasoning, Risk Stance, and Behaviour, published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, found, using a Photo courtesy WSJpsychological game called the ‘Iowa Gambling Task’, that adolescents who were being watched by their peers got the knack of the game faster. “Risk-taking in and of itself is not a bad thing, and taking risks is one way we learn about the world around us,” said study author Dr. Laurence Steinberg. “Peers may motivate each other to explore their environment in a way they might not do if they were being more cautious. Sometimes that leads to harmful consequences, but sometimes it leads to learning new things that are good, and I think that’s one of the points of the paper.”

Steinberg has previously discovered–using fMRI–that the brain’s reward centre is activated more strongly in the presence of peers. “When the reward centers of the brain are activated, it tends to make individuals focus more on the potential rewards that they face rather than the downsides,” he said. “We think our brains are wired so that adolescence is a time when people are more willing to take risks, and that’s a good thing as long as the risks they take don’t jeopardize their well-being. It’s important to remember that you’re not going to be able to stop teenagers from taking risks — it’s built into their wiring.”

Couch potatoes risk brain as well as muscle atrophy: MRI study

To exercise your mind you have to exercise your body, say the results of a newly released MRI study that was 20 years in the making. The study, published February 10 in the journal of Neurology, hascouchpotate its roots in the 1990s when 1,583 middle-aged (average age 40 years) participants took a treadmill test and a subsequent MRI scan.

Twenty years later, researchers located the same participants (well, almost–the researchers excluded those who had developed heart disease and/or were taking beta blockers, bringing the total down to 1, 094 participants) and repeated the procedure: treadmill test, then MRI brain scan.

To measure results, each participant was timed by how long they could last on the treadmill before their heart rate reached a cutoff level. Astonishingly, for every eight units less that a participant could perform on the initial treadmill test, their brain volume two decades later was found to be smaller. According to the researchers, each eight units lost was the equivalent of approximately one year of accelerated cognitive aging.

“We found a direct correlation in our study between poor fitness and brain volume decades later, which indicates accelerated brain aging,” said Dr. Nicole Spartano, an author of the study. “While not yet studied on a large scale, these results suggest that fitness in middle age may be particularly important for the many millions of people around the world who already have evidence of heart disease.”

February 4 is World Cancer Day

“We can, I can,” is the slogan for World Cancer Day 2016, and prevention is on the agenda. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have teamed up together, encouraging governments around the world to implement public policies that may collectively prevent 1/3 of cancer cases.

World Cancer Day 2016

In the Americas, cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death, and an estimated 2.8 million new cases are diagnosed every year. But according to the experts, over one third of these cases could be prevented–provided that populations get enough support from their governments. Strategies suggested include:

-increasing taxes and restricting access to tobacco and alcohol

-educating the public on immunizations (such as the immunization for hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer)

-providing early screening programs for cancers that are easily treatable in their early stages

-promoting better awareness of the anti-cancer benefits of healthy diet and exercise

“To address cancer and save lives, we must strengthen policies and services that effectively prevent and detect cancer in its early stages, and also increase access to treatment and improve cancer patients’ quality of life,” said Silvana Luciani, regional adviser at PAHO.

PAHO, established in 1902, is part of the United Nations, and the oldest public health organization in the world.

Surgeon saves baby using MRI and Google Cardboard Goggles

Doctors initially told the parents of Teegan Lexcen, a baby girl born with one lung and half a heart four months ago in Minnesota, that her case was inoperable. Determined to help their daughter live, her parents sought out the help of a team of doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, who applied ingenious problem solving to the latest gadgetry from Google.

Dr. Juan-Carlos Muniz, head of MRI at the hospital, worked with surgeon Dr. Redmond Burke in the breakthrough operation. The 2D MR images of Teegan’s heart showed the anatomy of Source: Goodnewsnetwork.orgthe organ, but her medical caretakers needed 3D images to better understand where incisions should be made. Although Dr. Burke’s team had used a 3D printer in the past, the printer was malfunctioning and time was scarce.

Enter Google Cardboard, a $20 device that transforms a smartphone into virtual reality goggles. The doctors loaded the 2D  MR images into an app called Sketchfab, and were able to view, in 3D, more finely detailed images than the previous methods they had been using.

“I looked inside and just by tilting my head I could see the patient’s heart. I could see it as if I were standing in the operating room,” said Dr. Muniz. The doctors credit the device’s help in enabling them to fully visualize the anatomy prior to operating was the key to the ultimately successful surgery.

Psychiatrists urge caution of overreliance on fMRI brain studies

Two leading mental health professionals have cast doubt on the increasingly common practice of using fMRI studies to pinpoint the sites of psychiatric illnesses on anatomical images of the brain.

In their report, Finding the Elusive Psychiatric “Lesion” with 21st-Century Neuroanatomy: A Note of Caution, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, authors Dr. Eugenia Radulescu and Dr. Daniel R. Weinberger of John Hopkins University seek to warn their colleagues and patients that some of these studies should not be accepted blindly, and may promote misunderstanding and stigma.brain

“It is almost impossible to pick up a current psychiatric journal and not see a study of anatomical measurement made on MRI scans comparing patients with a psychiatric diagnosis with healthy subjects,” write the researchers. “These various findings are routinely referred to as ‘cortical thinning,’ ‘atrophy,’ ‘tissue loss,’ or worse, and they are assumed to be insights into the underlying nature of these conditions.”

Although both authors have admittedly both been involved in such research, they wish to discourage over-reliance on it. “The overarching purpose of this cautionary note is to encourage a discussion about a widely and tacitly recognized, though mostly ignored, “inconvenient” truth: that conventional MRI does not allow us to make firm inferences about the primary biology of mental disorders and that we need to acknowledge this as a starting point in realizing the full value of MRI studies in psychiatry,” they concluded.

What the Holidays do to Your Brain: MRI Study

The hashtags #backtowork and the less subtle #backtoworkblues appeared across Twitter on Monday as millions of people bade the holiday season farewell and settled back into their routines. While it’s natural to begrudge getting up early after an extended break of sleep-ins and visits with loved ones, is there something about the holiday season that brings about a change in the collective mindset? According to recent MRI science, the answer is yes.

The new study, published December 2015 by Danish resesarchers in the BMJ Journal, and entitled Evidence of a Christmas spirit network in the brain: functional MRI study, opened with:newyear

“The Christmas spirit has been a widespread phenomenon for centuries, commonly described as feelings of joy and nostalgia mixed with associations to merriment, gifts, delightful smells, and copious amounts of good food. It is yet to be determined, however, where in the human body this “Christmas spirit” resides and which biological mechanisms are involved. We attempted to localise the Christmas spirit in the human brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).”

The researchers found a “Christmas spirit network” in their participants’ brains, consisting of: the bilateral primary somatosensory cortex (the region associated with the sense of touch), the primary and premotor cortex (the region associated with movement), and the occipital lobe (the region associated with sight). The researchers believe that this network may be the key behind why some people have only positive associations with the Christmas season, and why others may be labeled a “Grinch”.

Dr. Bryan Haddock, an author of the study, said that while the findings were of great interest to him, they should be interpreted with caution. There are many factors at play during the Christmas season, some negative (financial stress, Seasonal Affective Disorder, overindulgence in sugar and alcohol), some positive (gratitude for friends and loved ones, the joy of giving, overindulgence in sugar and alcohol) which very likely had an effect on the results, as well.