Using the MRI machine in ways you never imagined—all for the sake of science!
An MRI offers doctors a detailed view of organs and tissues throughout the entire body, safely and without the need for X-rays. Some of the most common reasons for an MRI include looking for sports injuries, tumors, aneurysms, nerve injury, spinal conditions, pelvic problems, ear, nose and throat conditions, musculoskeletal problems and much more.
And while those are the most well-known uses of an MRI, there are some people who’ve used it in unique and intriguing ways. In these 6 examples, the MRI was as an instrument to conduct science experiments, so to speak. Here’s a look at some of the coolest and most out of the ordinary ways an MRI machine has been used:
- Giving birth
Most of us would agree that there’s nothing more miraculous than the birth of a child. But in 2010, when a German woman gave birth while inside an MRI machine, her incredible delivery became an even bigger miracle. The MRI scanner captured the event in stunningly clear 3D detail, the event even left the doctors breathless as they watched the infant’s head change shape during delivery—something they knew would occur but had never witnessed from that point of view before.
- Performing music
How do musicians improvise entire concert-length pieces seemingly effortlessly? For Johns Hopkins hearing specialist Charles Limb, the answer would be discovered by having jazz pianists and rap musicians perform inside an MRI machine. To Limb’s delight, the images revealed that the performers actually shut-off certain parts of their brains while improvising. Research for children born with cleft lips and palates also inspired an artist named Sivu to film the video for his song Better Man Than He inside an MRI machine.
Video games are always a topic of discussion when it comes to how the brain works and what happens while people are playing them. For this experiment, researchers from the University of Illinois were interested in discovering if an MRI could help predict a person’s level of success at learning complex tasks.
To test their theory, they had subjects who weren’t really big gamers play a university-developed game while inside an MRI scanner. The people were either actively playing the game or simply lying inside the machine. Happy with their results, it seems that using the MRI allowed them to explore a certain signal in the brain that plays a role in learning.
- Handling seemingly deadly animals
To see how the brain reacts when one is terrified, researchers in Israel performed MRI scans with live animals. Some volunteers in the experiment were placed inside the MRI chamber with a snake or were duped into thinking that there was a tarantula in the box with their feet during a brain scan. The results, although not super surprising, revealed that different parts of the brain lit up showing the intensity of fear instilled.
- An intimate moment
The British Medical Journal published a 2014 study to determine whether it was possible to take MRI images of intercourse and determine whether our assumptions regarding sexual intercourse and female arousal are based on facts of assumptions. Turns out, it was totally possible and helpful in understanding our anatomy.
If you’ve ever watched a movie and wondered how the actor on screen could be so perfectly convincing, you’re not alone. British researchers wanted to know what happens inside the brain when actors assume a role. To find out, they had female actress Fiona Shaw recite lines from T.S. Elliot’s poem, “The Wasteland” while inside an MRI chamber.
They also had her alternate between reciting the lines and counting sequences of numbers. The results interestingly showed that while counting, the actress’ brain appeared just like anyone else’s, but when “acting” her infraparietal sulcus (the part of the brain that handles spatial memory) lit up.
- Fruits and veggies
While he stumbled upon it by accident as he was testing the settings on his machine, Andy Ellison, who works as an MRI technologist at Boston University School of Medicine, has taken to scanning fruits and vegetables in an MRI for the sheer joy of witnessing how amazing the images are. This one is a pineapple—pretty incredible, right? He’s also done corn, sunflowers, broccoli, pumpkin, banana, kiwi, grapes and more! See them all here.
The human body is a wonder and MRIs help us understand it in new and fascinating ways
There’s no doubt about it, MRI machines offer scientists the remarkable capability to discover mind-boggling facts about brains, bodies—even fruits—and how they work. We’re lucky to experience the wonder of the human body in ways most people don’t get to see day every day. To learn more about our digital imaging services and how they can help you, contact us today.