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Posts tagged ‘MRC Clinical Sciences Centre’

What can you learn about mental illness from brain imaging?

A PET scan of a person who uses cannabis. The red areas show the highest levels of dopamine.

A PET scan of a person who uses cannabis. The red areas show the highest levels of dopamine.

Can you learn anything about schizophrenia from scanning brains? Yes, says Michael Bloomfield, a researcher at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre — it’s all about looking at the detail. Here he explains his work to mark Schizophrenia Awareness Week (11-17 November).

The first major revolution in the care of mentally ill patients occurred in the late 18th century. Philippe Pinel, working at the Salpêtrière Asylum in Paris, ordered the removal of chains from his patients, heralding the beginning of more psychological and humane treatments.

The second revolution came 100 years later when psychotherapy was first used, followed by a third in the mid-20th century with the discovery of psychiatric medicines.

We are now living in the midst of a fourth revolution: using modern brain imaging techniques to learn more about disease and develop new treatments. Read more

Eliza and the Great Spaghetti Monster

Rodrigo Braga

Rodrigo Braga

In his shortlisted article for the Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2012, Rodrigo Braga, a PhD student at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, describes efforts to make an atlas of the developing brain. 

The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe. With it we have built entire civilisations and harnessed the power of nature. Yet despite their amazing complexity, all brains begin life as a tiny bundle of cells that divide, migrate and miraculously wire themselves up into the thinking machines that make us who we are. The fact that it happens at all is almost as astounding as the finished product itself, but it doesn’t always work out as Mother Nature intended.

Tucked up in her crib at the Neonatal Imaging Centre of Hammersmith Hospital, newborn baby Eliza is sleeping through another magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Around her head, the scanner machinery wails and screams with high-pitched ululations, but she sleeps peacefully, ears protected by tiny muffs. Read more