The Brain

Scientists Develop A Way To Visualise The Brain In Real-Time

March 13, 2014 | by Justine Alford

Photo credit: Adam Gazzaley, Neuroscape Lab.

What if you could watch your brain and see exactly what you were thinking? Well, of course you can't do that. But a group of scientists in the Neuroscape lab of the University of California San Francisco, run by Adam Gazzaley, have developed a sophisticated new imaging technology, called Glass Brain, which creates colorful visualizations of brain activity in real-time. 

To do this, the brain is first scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a technique utilizing strong magnetic fields and radio waves to image the body. This then generates a high-resolution 3D model of the participant's brain. Brain activity is then recorded by an electroencephalogram (EEG) which measures changes in voltage that occur when currents flow through neurons. Normally, EEG recordings look like a series of squiggly lines, something you might expect to come out of a lie detector. However glass brain converts this information into bursts of colorful activity, weaving through the 3D brain in real-time as different parts of the brain display activity. This can then be visualized by the participant on a game pad, allowing them to whiz around different areas of their own brain. 

This isn't just extremely cool - it's hoped that it may potentially have therapeutic applications. Many brain imaging technologies are limited because they require that the individual is placed inside large machines and must remain still, whereas this technology allows individuals to be in a somewhat more true-to-life scenario, which could give more information. Gazzaley hopes that this technology could be applied to aid the treatment of numerous conditions, such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and depression. 

Watch an example of a brain recording here: 

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