The brain is a network of billions of neurons that send trillions of signals per second. More complex than any computer system man has engineered, the brain requires technology to figure out what is actually happening on a molecular level.
An MRI brain scan measures the tissue of the brain, but it is not the only method of measuring brain activity. Scientists also use electrodes to detect brain waves from the scalp. Magnets can also help measure pulses from the brain, or placed inside the brain to detect impulses. The results give researchers evidence of how the brain reacts, with images to reflect those assertions.
Middle-grade technology for brain scanning typically involves working inside the skull. ECoGs (electrocorticography) use electrodes applied directly to the exposed surface of the brain. These invasive procedures are often performed when a patient is already undergoing brain surgery. Experimental therapies also look at the brain’s response to certain visual cues (like a strobe light). By observing how the brain works, we can make assumptions about what parts of the brain are most affected by treatment.
Low-level technology studies brain tissue, and usually requires a biopsy. A microscope is used to take high-resolution photos of tissue for study. Fluorescent dyes are also used to highlight brain tissue and make observation easier.
Neuroscience uses technology extensively to document what happens in the brain. Advanced usage of electrodes and software give doctors the means to research new avenues for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. As scientists discover new methods to measure this activity, treatments will become more effective.