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SPECT Functional Brain Imaging Is Not 'Mind Reading'

Posted Jan 07 2009 2:59pm

Sagittal MRI slice at the midline.Image via WikipediaLet' s Take the Woo Woo out of New Brain Science Discoveries
If you are interested in the science of brain imaging on any level you will be interested in just taking a moment over at CBS 60 Minutes from this past Sunday night.

In an interesting report on functional brain imaging Lesley Stahl graphically demonstrates [excellent video footage] some of the exciting progress with the actual brain ' pictures of thinking' - thinking about specific items: hammer, screwdriver etc. Dr Just at Carnegie Mellon is one of the interviewees - in this short report they put a 60 Minutes producer in the fMRI machine, took pictures of her brain activity, then demonstrated exactly what she was thinking whilst in the machine. Good Stuff!

With fMRI and SPECT the essential key word here is "functional" brain imaging - this MRI photo >> is simply an example of a static MRI picture, not functioning, not actually thinking in process, just anatomic structure. The ' brain action' is in the ' function.'

We have been talking about SPECT imaging here since we started, and posted on this controversy with SPECT imaging with Carlat and Amen in May ' 08. SPECT can be used very effectively in the context of good psychiatric practice.

In the comments that follow on the CBS site one can easily see how the ' Mind Reading' spin clearly terrified some folks, as the researchers indicated that we would soon have beams bouncing off our heads that would know our private thoughts. Not to worry, the benefit outweighs the risk - and the hype does a disservice to the message.

And if you are interested in SPECT applications in mental health office practice: Do sign up for notification of SPECT Traininghere at CorePsychBlog.

Take a look at 60 Minutes to see what' s going on, and don' t fret the hype.

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