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March 15, 2006

other tech: Diffusion Tensor Imaging on the path to more detailed brain scans

Another example that new more precise tools can help reveal important details of problems such as disease.

Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) a variation of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that allows the study of the connections between different brain areas. Conventional imaging techniques, such as structural MRI, reveal major anatomical features of the brain -- gray matter, which is made up of nerve cell bodies. But neuroscientists believe that some diseases may be rooted in subtle "wiring" problems involving axons, the long, thin tails of neurons that carry electrical signals and constitute the brain's white matter. With DTI, researchers can, for the first time, look at the complex network of nerve fibers connecting the different brain areas. Memory and cognitive problems associated with schizophrenia , major but undertreated aspects of the disease, are linked to flaws in nerve fibers near the hippocampus. In DTI, radiologists use specific radio-frequency and magnetic field-gradient pulses to track the movement of water molecules in the brain.

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