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Tools of Brain Research

Just as telescopes allow us to examine distant galaxies and microscopes reveal the world of the microcosm, the devices used by brain researchers show the structures and functions of the brain. To this end, there are methods for showing the inside of this vital organ without requiring surgery or anaesthesia.

MRT image


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used by researchers to investigate the structure of the brain. The technique distinguishes various types of tissue and can also differentiate diseased tissue from healthy tissue. One variant of this method, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), provides information on which regions of the brain are active, for instance, when a person speaks, looks at something or performs certain movements.

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PET Image


Positron emission tomography (PET) makes the metabolism of the brain visible. This enables researchers to see where pharmaceuticals are effective, identify the destinations of neurotransmitters in the brain, as well as monitor tumour growth and pathological deposits in the brain. To do this, they use spy molecules labelled with weak radioactivity, referred to as radiotracers.

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Powerful hybrid device: 9.4-T MR-PET

At Jülich, researchers work with a combination of the two methods, known as MR-PET. This allows them to observe the structure and function of the brain at the same time, i.e. which regions of the brain are active and what is happening at the molecular level there. This modern hybrid technique is jointly developed in Jülich, the home of the "9point4", a 9.4-tesla magnetic resonance scanner coupled with a PET device. It's the only device of its kind in the world.

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