Participating in Aging Research Projects - Dementia Study!
04.08.2007 - M.R.I. Brain Scan at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Hospital
I was asked if I wanted to do research on aging brains and I said certainly!   The Veterans Hospital of San Francisco has one of the best magnetic resonance imaging machines in the country.   I would also get $50 for the test plus, I would be informed if I had dementia or the beginning of Alzheimer. 

So I went in and was told the test was about 50 minutes long and I couldn't (or shouldn't) move.  Into the machine I went, all the way!  I guess many get claustrophobia and need to come out.  It that happens, one either must do the entire test again or cop out of the test.  The machine has huge magnets and the technician told me it consumed about 450 thousands volts of electricity!  The voltage builds up and suddenly there is a huge band and the magnets are energized!  I was told not to move.  I was able to listen to symphonic music as I laid there.  I also had a plastic mask over my head, a strange feeling I must say!   After the hour I was able to sit down with the technician and view my entire brain, flying through it from one ear to the other.  From the side and from the top, through each layer of the brain.  Talk about interesting!


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce high quality two- or three-dimensional images of brain  structures without use of ionizing radiation (X-rays) or radioactive tracers. During an MRI, a large cylindrical magnet creates a magnetic field around the head of the patient through which radio waves are sent. When the magnetic field is imposed, each point in space has a unique radio frequency at which the signal is received and transmitted (Preuss). Sensors read the frequencies and a computer uses the information to construct an image. The detection mechanisms are so precise that changes in structures over time can be detected. Using MRI, scientists can create images of both surface and subsurface structures with a high degree of anatomical detail. MRI scans can produce cross sectional images in any direction from top to bottom, side to side, or front to back. The problem with original MRI technology was that while it provides a detailed assessment of the physical appearance, water content, and many kinds of subtle derangements of structure of the brain (such as inflammation or bleeding), it fails to provide information about the metabolism of the brain (i.e. how actively it is functioning) at the time of imaging. A distinction is therefore made between "MRI imaging" and "functional MRI imaging, where MRI provides only structural information on the brain while MRI yields both structural and functional data.

Return to the Research Projects Page

  Charles Walter Buntjer

San Francisco California
Created on: 2007.04.08  

Updated on: 2007.04.08