Source: The Human Spark: "Brain Matters"
Major funding for The Human Spark is provided by the National Science Foundation, and by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the John Templeton Foundation, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, and The Winston Foundation.
ALAN ALDA How much can you tell about the difference between us just by looking at the brain?
TODD PREUSS Not very much. Every little bit of cortex is like a very, very sophisticated bit of wiring or a very sophisticated bit of computer circuitry and what we’d like to know is are those circuits the same or are they different. And if so, in what ways are they different? And how does that relate to differences in the way we think and act. It’s not enough to look at the surface features of the brain. You’ve got to go inside.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) And so I’ve spent several hours over the last few months in brain scanning machines like this one here at MIT. MRI machines employ a powerful magnetic field to image the brain. And they can also find out what parts of my brain are active when I’m doing different tasks. But first, as always with these brain-scanning sessions, they’re going to start with the basics.
REBECCA SAXE OK, Alan we can see that you have a brain, and we’re ready to do the first scan. For this one all you need to do is lay back and relax. Are you ready?
ALAN ALDA Yeah.
REBECCA SAXE OK, here goes, this will last for about 4 minutes.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The MRI takes slices across my brain from side to side… top to bottom… and front to back. Randy Buckner seems happy with what he sees.
ALAN ALDA What looks good about my brain?
RANDY BUCKNER Well there’s a lot of changes we see as we age and these happen in all of us, even by the time we’re 30 our brains are different than when we were 18. And when I’m looking at your brain actually I should say it really is remarkable. And some of the things we are seeing, we always seeing these fluid filled spaces right here, this dark area – that’s fluid and those spaces exist in all of us. As we age they tend to grow. Yours haven’t grown that much. This looks like a brain, if I had to guess, I would have guessed you were 40 or 50.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So far, so good. The slices taken in the MRI will now be combined to give a complete three-dimensional image of my whole head, brain included.
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