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Special Millennium Article
January 2000

A Century of Imaging

Author Affiliations

From the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, Calif.

Arch Neurol. 2000;57(1):58-59. doi:10.1001/archneur.57.1.58

It can easily be said that in the world of medicine the 20th century was the century of imaging. Every decade saw astounding increments in our ability to visualize structure and function in the human body. The century began just after the discovery of x-rays, with the crudest radiographs demonstrating the anatomy of the human skull. In 1912, accidental posttraumatic pneumocephalus seen on a plain radiograph ultimately led to pneumoencephalography. The 1920s saw the introduction of angiography. Radionuclide imaging found its origins in the late 1940s, and ultrasonography was used to identify the location of the third ventricle by the mid-1950s. The 1970s represented a banner decade for imaging research, with the introduction of computed tomography, single photon and positron emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. The century is closing with the Decade of the Brain and an explosion of information about functional imaging of the human brain in health and disease. Neurologists have played a critical role, not only in developing these techniques, but also in refining them and in applying them to patients as well as to healthy subjects. The results have provided previously unimaginable information regarding the use of imaging in patient care. Imaging techniques have also been of great interest to the general public with regard to education and a whole host of social ills that may, at some level, reflect aberrations in brain function.