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A Terrific Tour of the UCSB Brain Imaging Lab

Posted Nov 13 2009 10:01pm

The Cal Poly Neuroscience Club took a field trip today down the road to UCSB to tour the Brain Imaging Lab. Our intrepid students met on campus this morning at 7:45 a.m. (a brutal hour, so these are true Brainiacs) to meet our carpools, and then we were off!

Scott Grafton, Phil Beach, and their staff gave us tons of information on how the equipment operates.  We saw some beautiful examples of some of the diffusion tensor imaging they had done. Best of all, I had a chance to have my brain imaged–a first for me. I did a little finger movement–tapping the fingers of my right hand onto my thumb one at a time–and my brain lit up in all the appropriate places. I guess it’s reassuring to know that your brain is doing what it’s supposed to do. Several students suggested that my brain should be used in next quarter’s Neuro ID test–we’ll see :)

Nice to know that my brain looks pretty normal....

Nice to know that my brain looks pretty normal....

The procedure was pretty much what I expected, but I was surprised at how well the earplugs and headphones attenuated the noise. Phil said the noise in the scanner is about 100 dB, which is pretty loud, although short of being in the front rows of a typical rock concert. It didn’t seem loud to me at all. I was also not at all bothered by the feeling of being enclosed in the scanner. It was actually hard to stay awake.

Phil kindly sent me home with a CD, on which they’d burned 160 images of my brain in sagittal sections. Siemens, the maker of UCSB’s scanner, also provides a nice little standalone viewer that lets you view the images on your PC.

After our tour, the students insisted that the only place possible for eating lunch was called Freebirds, which was a new one for me. Mr. F and I each had an enormous burrito for lunch–sorry Jenny Craig! On the way, the UCSB skateboard lanes were much admired–maybe Cal Poly will follow suit?

That's a pretty big burrito, and it's not the Monster either.

That' s a pretty big burrito, and it' s not the Monster either.

All in all, it was a really fun trip! Many thanks to the UCSB Brain Imaging Lab staff and Skirmantas Janusonis for making this possible for our students.

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