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Medical News & Perspectives
August 17, 2005

Neuroscience Becomes Image Conscious as Brain Scans Raise Ethical Issues

JAMA. 2005;294(7):781-783. doi:10.1001/jama.294.7.781

Plug in the term fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to PubMed and the search engine will generate tens of thousands of relevant citations. Since this brain imaging technique first appeared in the early 1990s, its use has “simply exploded,” says Marcus Raichle, MD, professor of radiology, neurology, and anatomy and neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, a pioneer in functional brain imaging.

Not only are researchers using fMRI and other neuroimaging tools to examine basic sensorimotor and cognitive processes and brain pathology, they are also using them to explore complex brain functions involved in human motivation, reasoning, and social attitudes. This new ability to explore brain mechanisms is opening an array of opportunities to advance the understanding of the brain in health and disease.