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June 2008 Mayo Clinic Health Letter Highlights New MRI Scanning Technology, Obesity-Related Cancer, and Do-It-Yourself Massage
Date:6/24/2008

ROCHESTER, Minn., June 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Here are highlights from the June issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. You may cite this publication as often as you wish. Reprinting is allowed for a fee. Mayo Clinic Health Letter attribution is required. Include the following subscription information as your editorial policies permit: Visit http://www.HealthLetter.MayoClinic.com or call toll-free for subscription information, 800-333-9037, extension 9PR1.

New Scanning Technology Offers Better Picture of Critical Brain Functions

Researchers are taking MRI to a new level that offers a better picture of vital brain functions, according to the June issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

MRI is a standard imaging tool that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of the body. It's particularly helpful in diagnosing brain tumors, but MRI doesn't clearly convey the risks of removing the tumor.

A new tool, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), gives a clearer picture of the brain in action and what brain tissue is relevant to accomplishing a given task, such as raising a hand or reading a sentence. Basically, fMRI detects changes in the brain's blood flow that occur when performing specific tasks. The result is a color-coded image that shows surgeons areas of the brain where permanent injury should be avoided. Although there's general understanding of where these important brain centers are, they vary by individual.

So far, fMRI scans mainly have been used at major medical centers as a research tool. Some early studies indicate that its use prior to surgery is associated with a significant reduction in complication rates, particularly when tumors are close to the brain's language centers or parts of the brain responsible for movement.

Researchers also are using fMRI to better understand psychiatric disorders, though it remains difficult
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