VISITORS and pupils learned how staff at the John Radcliffe Hospital study the brain as part of a series of public events about medical research in Oxfordshire.
More than 100 people enjoyed a tour of the Oxford University Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) on Monday March 16.
They visited the control room of its Ultra High Field MRI scanner as part of the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre Open Weeks and Brain Awareness Week.
Physicist Stuart Clare, who led the tour, said: “The extremely high magnetic field produced by the scanner allows us to scan the brain in finer detail than is possible on standard hospital scanners.
“There are whole groups of researchers at FMRIB looking at how to improve the ways in which brain images are acquired.
“I compared the effect of their work to the way in which innovations in Formula 1 car design trickle down to make better mass production cars.
“This research will eventually ensure that standard hospital scans are quicker and more informative.”
In the morning, 90 children visited from Headington’s Windmill Primary School and St Andrew’s Church of England Primary School and Marston’s St Michael’s CE Primary School.
They saw the scanner in action and learned how the brain can quickly adapt to new information when wearing vision bending goggles.
In the evening, 30 visitors saw researchers James Kolasinski and Min-Ho Lee take turns in the scanner to complete finger tapping and visual tasks.
The visitors saw the researchers’ brain activation appear on the screen.
Vision scientist Holly Bridge showed an animation on how functional MRI works called ‘A Spin Around the Brain’.
She explained how functional MRI has revealed that the visual system in the brain can be active even when we are just imagining seeing objects.
Visitors then got the chance to devise their own experiment.
This involved predicting which brain areas would be active and light up on the screen when certain tasks were undertaken in the scanner. Public requests of researchers included the 17 times table and singing a song.
Questions from visitors included how the scanner is used to find out about conditions like migraine and Parkinson’s disease.
Events are being held for Brain Awareness Week from March 11 to March 22 by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford Neuroscience and the University of Oxford. For details visit www.neuroscience.ox.ac.uk.
The NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and is a partnership between the Oxford University Hospitals Trust and the University of Oxford.
The Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) is a multi-disciplinary neuroimaging research facility and is part of the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences.
It focuses on the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for neuroscience research along with related technologies.
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