What It Is

By incorporating algorithms used to analyze the Earth’s vibrations, Stefan Catheline at INSERM in Paris, France, and her team have been working on a way to modify MRI scanners to measure brain elasticity. MRI usually works by measuring water content, but with modifications it can be made to measure the movement of water molecules. Typically the water content of our cells doesn't vary much, but their mechanical properties do. So while brain tissue might look like all cells are identical during an MRI scan, this new technology could reveal huge variations in stretchiness, or hardness. “We tend to think of the brain as a static organ, but there is a lot of movement,” he says. “When blood is pumped into the brain it pulsates, and induces vibrations.”

The Implications

Scans using this device could reveal huge variations in elasticity or hardness of the brain and help spot tumors and other abnormalities, findings that are currently limited to when doctors are able to touch the brain directly after removing a section of the skull. The first applications will likely be to assess the hardness of an existing tumor


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