The brain remains a mystery today, even after incredible advances in neuroscience. But how are neuroscientific studies? How does neuroscience study the human brain?
In this brief article we are going to answer the question ‘’How is neuroscience studies?’’ We will describe the techniques that neuroscience uses to study the human brain, how they use and what limitations each of them have.
How is neuroscience studies?
Neuroscience studies analyze brain processes using neuroimaging techniques that allow observing and evaluating brain functions.
The different branches of neuroscience have made it one of the most dynamic disciplines in terms of its evolution and development and, at the same time, one of those that arouses more interest both in those who dedicate themselves to specialties that can be enriched with their contributions, as in those who are passionate about knowing the mysteries of the brain since the world is world.
Undoubtedly, as neuroscience advances, so do the cure of diseases, neurocognitive and emotional development techniques, the development of diets aimed at improving brain health and activity, and the tools to fight the deterioration that occurs with the age.
In the same way and marking an accentuated development, they began to develop disciplines that are nurtured by their knowledge, such as neuroeconomics, neuromarketing or neuromanagement, the latter offers companies resources to improve leadership, productivity and well-being in the job.
We can define neuroscience as the science that studies the structure and functioning of the human nervous system and how its different elements are related to create and constitute the biological basis of cognition, emotions and behavior.
How is the brain studied?
Advances in the development of neuroimaging techniques have enabled cognitive psychologists to study the internal representation of mental processes. As a result, higher functions do not have to be deduced from behavioral observations, since the study of cognition can be done with CT scans.
In the first place, we must differentiate the investigations that are carried out with working brains from those that are carried out with postmortem brains, both of prominent personalities and anonymous people.
The brains of animals also contribute to the development of neuroscience: there is a lot of research carried out with cats, various rodents, monkeys, even sea slugs and insects that contribute to understanding how our brain works.
Experimental research in neuroscience uses various equipment and technology. In general, it covers four stages:
2. Reproduction (repeat the experience or make similar observations to rule out chance).
One of the decisive factors in the explosion of knowledge that occurred during and after the decade of the brain has been the development of equipment that allows us to observe brain reactions just when they occur, for example, what area is activated when we speak, what happens when observe an advertisement or which areas light up and which ones remain off when given certain stimuli.
Computers that use brain scans are the most effective at obtaining images.
Because these methods are non-invasive, researchers can do many studies on the same individual and obtain detailed information about the activity of their brain as well as its structure.
What is a neuroscience research tool?
Neuroscience research tools are devices that allow studying the nervous system. So-called neuroimaging techniques are used for both clinical and academic purposes. Thus, these tools allow the nervous system to be approached from four approaches:
- Functional: describes the functioning of the nervous system, for example, through the flows or the degree of activation of various areas.
- Structural: they provide anatomical information about the brain or other structures of the nervous system.
- Electrical: techniques that provide information about the electrical activity of the nervous system.
- Stimulation: tools based on non-invasive stimulation of the brain.
Structural neuroimaging techniques
Among the structural techniques specialized in providing anatomical information, the most basic and used is radiography. This technique consists of the emission of X-rays; Depending on the density of the tissue, it causes a different image to be projected onto the photographic plate. Finally, we have two types of X-rays:
- Common X-ray. Only X-rays are used. Commonly used to obtain information from the bones that surround the nervous system, in case of fractures.
- Contrast X-ray. It is used with the same X-ray method, but entering a catheter through the femoral artery. This hyperdense contrast allows to detect vascular alterations.
Computed axial tomography
We are talking about the famous tube-shaped scanner. This technique is based on the emission of X-rays from different directions, giving a more finished image and at different cutting levels.
It is a fast and low-cost technique that allows the detection of tumors, aneurysms and hemorrhages. On the other hand, the radiation emitted is not good for the body and its definition is not as high as that of other techniques.
This research technique in neuroscience allows to collect images of the interior of the body with high resolution and safely; one of the few precautions that must be taken when using it is that it is incompatible with metal implants.
It is based on the phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance, where the device records the radio frequency signals emitted by hydrogen atoms, previously subjected to a magnetic field.
Hydrogen atoms are present in large quantities in the body, so it is a high resolution technique and without harmful effects by not using radiation. On the other hand, it has a high cost.
It is a tool that uses magnetic resonance to evaluate the functioning of white matter beams. These are largely made up of water, and are responsible for carrying nervous information at high speed, since they are mainly myelinated axons.
In this way, the technique allows to evaluate the subcortical structure of the brain, being able to detect neurodegenerative diseases and epilepsy
Functional neuroimaging techniques
They are the research tools in neuroscience, which allow to detect changes in brain activity in vivo. They are usually used to evaluate cognitive processes in concomitance with the functioning of their anatomical correlates.
Positron emission tomography
This technique is based on the introduction of radioactive substances into the bloodstream. Cells with high metabolic activity absorb this substance. In this process, the isotopes that emit positrons cancel out when they combine with electrons, generating electromagnetic energy, which is captured by the device.
It is a widely used technique to detect brain tumors, since they tend to have a higher metabolism. In turn, it also serves to detect neurodegenerative diseases. In the case of Alzheimer’s, for example, the degeneration of cells will cause not as much substance to be absorbed and the image will differ from that of a normal brain.
Single photon emission computed tomography
Recording technique similar to the previous one, only that it uses gamma radiation, produced by an isotope directly from within the body. So, this technique also requires a receptor, through which an image will be generated, which highlights in colors the different degrees of brain activation.
Functional magnetic resonance
It consists of an MRI, but where at the same time some cognitive activity is carried out. It is based on the fact that the neurons involved in a mental process will need more energy and therefore more oxygen from the blood.
When we perform a mental task, the consumption of oxygenated blood (which has magnetic properties) increases. So then, this activity is recorded by the device. Despite having a high cost, it makes it possible to locate cognitive functions in the brain.
These techniques allow the electrical activity of the brain to be recorded. Among the most outstanding we can list:
- Electroencephalogram. System that records the electrical potentials of the brain and therefore the type of wave and frequency in which it is working.
- Electromyogram. Technique to evaluate the electrical activity of the muscles. It is used for the exploration of the peripheral nerves.
- Electrooculogram. Muscular electrical recording of eye movement, used to distinguish the phases of sleep.
Brain stimulation techniques
These techniques allow influencing brain activity through two types of stimuli:
- Magnetic: With transcranial magnetic stimulation, a current is safely induced in the brain. This induction is achieved by a flow of current that passes through a coil and generates a magnetic field.
- Electrical: a low intensity current is applied through electrodes located on the scalp. This induction causes changes in the excitability of neurons in the cortex.
These forms of stimulation usually reach only areas of the cortex. They are mostly used to identify mental processes, as well as to create virtual injuries. Its application to improve performance or treat disorders such as phobias, is still under investigation and should not be applied in people with epilepsy, implants or pregnant women.
So, how is neuroscience studies?
The neurosciences have been responsible for explaining how the mind works based on its biological condition rooted in the brain. Its importance lies in the fact that now, thanks to high-tech scanners designed by other branches of science, secrets of the brain have been revealed that make what was once part of science fiction; today it is formal science.
Now we know that it is necessary to know the brain in order to understand it and design strategies to be to improve our behavior and, thus, solve the great problems in terms of public policies related to psychological problems.
We are separated by about 5 millennia since we suppose the first neuroanatomical descriptions were written until today, where we can see the inside of our brain without having to open our heads or be dissected.
Far removed from other darker times, in the last 2 centuries, the development of technology to study both anatomy and the function of our brain has been frenetic…
What new mysteries will be revealed thanks to these techniques?
FAQS: How is neuroscience studies?
Why do we study neuroscience?
Neuroscience examines illnesses, conditions and accidents that affect aspects of the nervous system, how it evolves, and how well it works, in addition to studying the normal development and behavior of the nervous system.
Is Neuroscience hard to study?
Yes, neuroscience can be hard to study. You will need to study a lot of biology and chemistry to understand brain mechanisms.
What jobs can you get from studying neuroscience?
You can get a jobfrom:
- Clinical psychologist.
- Physician (MD or DO) in areas such as neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry
- Researcher at Universities or Government Institutions
How many years does it take to study neuroscience?
It may take about 14 years to study neuroscience as it is a study that requires a PhD.
Why is neuroscience so popular?
For a few factors, I believe there has been greater public interest and awareness of ‘neuroscience’ over the last five to ten years, including: increased researchers’ outreach, a lot of medical and personal study, an improvement in the quality and form of technology and resources.
In this brief article we answered the question ‘’How is neuroscience studies?’’ We described the techniques that neuroscience uses to study the human brain, how they use and what limitations each of them have.
If you have any questions or comments please let us know!
Why should scientists study neuroscience? (2018, October). Retrieved November 8, 2020, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/ website: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/neuro/conditioninfo/study
Penttila, N. (2019, August 2). How do Scientists Study the… Retrieved November 8, 2020, from Dana Foundation website: https://www.dana.org/article/how-do-scientists-study-the-brain/#:~:text=%E2%80%9Cclassical%20conditioning%E2%80%9D.-,Among%20other%20tools%2C%20neuroscientists%20use%20high%20powered%20microscopes%20to%20look,building%20blocks%20of%20the%20brain.&text=One%20device%20commonly%20used%20to,brain%20as%20they%20are%20happening.
News-Medical. (2010, February 11). Studying the Human Brain. Retrieved November 8, 2020, from News-Medical.net website: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Studying-the-Human-Brain.aspx