The brain remains undoubtedly one of the most mysterious organs of the human body. Magnetic resonance imaging has helped to unveil some of its secrets, and major advances have been made in understanding how the brain functions. Recent developments with resting fMRI (rfMRI) and diffusion MRI (dMRI) indicate that scientists are beginning to see beyond the brain: they have actually started to visualise the human mind. This new information is particularly relevant for understanding complex processes such as dementia, autism and depression. It is also proving increasingly central to the diagnosis of comas and chronic disorders of consciousness.
Leading researchers will discuss where the latest advances have led them and what the future will bring in a dedicated New Horizons Session during ECR 2013. FMRI has been used for over twenty years to visualise changes in brain activity by comparing a task versus a control task, and showing and quantifying how much brain activity is involved in the process. The recent addition of rfMRI enables researchers to track networks that are randomly active. A patient lying in a scanner with no particular task to perform will usually start thinking about the trivialities of the day and go from one thought to the other (“Did I close the door before I left? What am I doing here?” etc.). Neuroresearchers can track this mind mumbling with complex mathematics and extract information from what they call the default mode network.