I Got To See And Hold My Brain


– The final guest video in this run
is from Alie and Micah, a neuroscientist and a clinical therapist
who run Neuro Transmissions. Their video has giant magnets, 3D printing,
and a Star Wars action figure. Alie, Micah, it’s all yours. – We’re here at the Keck Center
at UC San Diego. And this is a functional magnetic
resonance imager, or an fMRI. – Well, functional, but not functioning. This is actually a dummy scanner that’s used for educational
and training purposes. An actual fMRI machine
houses a 3-Tesla magnet that’s more than 60,000 times more
powerful than the Earth’s magnetic field. And over 3,000 times more powerful
than your average fridge magnet. If we were anywhere near the real deal, well, we would put our camera
and our equipment at serious risk. – But why on earth would anyone
possibly need a magnet so powerful? Well, some of the researchers here at UCSD are using fMRI
to study the human brain in ways that 30 years ago
just weren’t even possible. – I’m Maggie, I’m a fourth-year
graduate student at UC San Diego. – My name is Stephanie Nelli, I’m a sixth-year PhD student
in John Serences’ lab. – We study mostly selective attention
and expectation and other cognitive factors and how they influence
visual processing in humans. – My research is about really basic
visual perception. How do we make sense
of the world around us? How do we choose, out of
the plethora of things that are constantly accosting
our visual system, how does your brain make sense
of the massive amount of information constantly bombarding it? fMRI itself was developed
not very long ago, it’s a very new technique,
as far as human research goes. And it was developed in the ’90s, I believe,
actually in Bell Labs. – fMRI is a particular specialty of MRI
called functional MRI, so what that does is basically, instead of
measuring the difference between particular tissues,
you’re actually optimising to detect the difference between
oxygenated vs. deoxygenated blood in a person’s brain. – For a long time, it was impossible
to look at the brain up close without cracking open someone’s skull. [Micah laughs] And even if you got a brain from someone
who’s passed on, that’s not all that useful for understanding how it works. When Leonardo Da Vinci dissected
the human brain in the 16th century it was with the intention
of finding the seat of the human soul. Spoiler alert, he didn’t. – Unsurprisingly, the functions of different brain areas
were essentially a mystery well after the scientific revolution. But fMRI changed all that
by giving scientists the ability to see the
brain working in real time, track activities in
different brain regions, and read your mind. – No, unfortunately not for us scientists,
an fMRI machine cannot read the mind. It can tell you basically where blood
is being transported to in the brain. So which parts of the brain are active. – An fMRI scan can tell you when someone
is doing some cognitive task, what kind of patterns of
brain activity you see. So which areas are active, what information
are those areas representing. For instance, if you have someone look
at different images and you measure MRI while they do that, then later if you have
that same person come in and you say, okay, think about something. Now, based on that information,
I can guess what you were thinking about. – I could probably say
you’re looking to the left by looking at your neural activity or I could say you’re looking
at a horizontal line by looking at your neural activity. However, am I gonna be able to tell
what you’re daydreaming about or who you’re in love with
or something like that? No, I don’t think think that’s gonna happen
in my lifetime but, you know, I said it on camera so
we’ll be able to… [laughs]. – It might not quite make sense
how a magnet does all of this, so let’s break down the
process step by step. Let’s say that Rey here has been having some neurologically linked problems
and a doctor refers her for an fMRI. All of her Force powers
are messing with her head. “Oh no, Kylo Ren keeps
appearing in my mind! “I can’t stop thinking about his hot torso. “Ohhh!” – The technicians place her on the table, give her some earplugs
and stabilise her head so she can’t move it at all. If the head moves during the scan,
the images will come out fuzzy. Next, the table slides into
this large, doughnut-shaped section which houses the
ultra-powerful magnet. The strong magnetic field of this magnet then actually turns the
hydrogen atoms in our blood. – Wait, what? – Yeah, the human body has a lot
of hydrogen atoms because well, we’re mostly made up of H₂O, that’s water. The magnetic field from the fMRI interacts
with the protons in the hydrogen atoms and makes those protons essentially point
in the same direction. That’s right, your molecules are magnetic. Hence, the magnetic resonance part of magnetic resonance imaging. – Once Rey’s in position,
she’ll hear a series of very loud clangs and beeps. [MRI machine beeps repeatedly] But these sounds aren’t
just the hottest new beat, they actually serve a purpose. Every clang you hear is a radio wave pulse
being fired off. This radio wave disrupts the uniform direction
of the protons and pushes them in slightly different directions. Here’s the cool part. As the protons move back into realignment, they release their very
own small radio signal and those signals are then detected by the fMRI machine’s radio receiver, which starts taking snapshots
of cross-sections of your brain, which you hear as the beeping sound. After some complicated computation,
what shows up on the computer screen is a series of images that show both the anatomy of your brain
and highlighted areas where there’s more blood flow. Pretty cool, right? – Yeah, so fMRI doesn’t actually measure
your brain activity. It can’t detect your
individual neurons firing, as cool as that would be. fMRI machines actually detect
what’s called the BOLD signal. – So the BOLD signal stands for
blood-oxygen-level dependent signal and it’s basically an index
of how much oxygenated haemoglobin is in a person’s blood at a particular
point in their brain. – Neurons themselves don’t keep a high store
of glucose hanging around so that they can do their job
and so the blood vessels, through these things called
astrocytes, actually, help supply neurons with the glucose and oxygen that they need
to do their signalling. – When you have neural activity
that happens in your brain, a bunch of blood will rush to that area and it turns out that oxygenated
and deoxygenated haemoglobin in your blood have different magnetic properties.
So deoxygenated haemoglobin will disrupt the magnetic field
more than oxygenated haemoglobin will and it’ll actually cause
a decrease in the signal. So when you look at an fMRI image,
the higher the signal you have, the more oxygen is in
your blood at that point. And so you actually can measure with the BOLD signal after
these neural events occur. That basically tells you how much energy
was consumed at that location. – Now, it’s not perfect. It can’t detect changes instantaneously or tell you exactly what kinds
of signals are being sent. – But even with its limitations, it lets us better understand
which brain regions do what. Using fMRI, scientists have been able
to identify 180 distinct brain regions. Better understanding the roles
of different brain regions means that doctors can use that information
to help treat and support patients with neurological disorders
or brain injuries. fMRI technology is cool,
but both of us wanted more. We wanted to get into the machine
and see what our own brains looked like. Maggie and Steph asked me to participate
in a pilot research study looking at how humans distinguish between faces
and I jumped at the chance to help out. – I didn’t participate in the study
but I was able to get a structural scan. It doesn’t measure blood flow but it does give you a high resolution image
of your brain’s anatomy. It was a strange experience, being inside. It felt like being in a plastic coffin. I can see why some people
get claustrophobic. – And participating in the study
was harder than I expected. While the task I was doing was easy, it was hard to stay focused on doing the same thing over and over
for almost two hours. But it was also really
cool to see the results. – And yet, we could not pass up
on the opportunity of a lifetime. – I mean, sure it’s cool to see your brain
on a screen but imagine
holding it in your hands. What does my own unique brain
really look like? Well, as it turns out,
we’re able to find out. – Thanks to modern software, we’re able
to take the 2D slices of our brains and compose them into a 3D render and print them out. Cue the time lapse. – Well, look at that beautiful brain. – I really liked how the rainbow filament
turned out on this. – Yeah, it’s so pretty.
– This turned out really cool. – I know, and I really like
my glow-in-the-dark print. It’s super bright. – The grooves are much wider in yours,
and not quite as tightly packed, whereas mine is super tightly folded. – It’s cool that you
can see the inside too, the hippocampus and all these
different brain regions. – Obviously I knew that my brain wasn’t
perfectly symmetrical, no one’s brain is, but you can really see
very obvious differences. It’s really interesting to see,
like, oh, that’s my brain’s shape. – Right, I didn’t really
think about that before. – Every time someone
comes over to our house I’ll be like, did you see my brain? – Lemme show you my brain.
– Lemme show you my brain! – It’s incredible that we have
the technology to track the activity of a live human brain. fMRI has pushed
neuroscience to new heights and has given us a glimpse into the seat
of human consciousness. And only somewhat less incredible is the fact that we can
use those same images to build 3D models so we can
create a life-size version of our own brains. How funny that just a chunk
of squishy cells this big can come up with such incredible tools to help us better understand
our minds and ourselves. – Huge thanks to Maggie and Steph
from the Serences lab for their expertise and to UCSD for giving us
access to their scanner. And thanks to Tom for giving nerds like us
the chance to share our brainy love. Maybe we’ll see you later? – Maybe? – Until next time, we’re
Neuro Transmissions, over and out. – Thank you folks, go subscribe
to Neuro Transmissions. I would recommend starting
with Micah’s video on training a cat to high five or Alie’s video on how
marijuana affects your brain. And that’s it! I’m back next week and I will see you then.

100 thoughts on “I Got To See And Hold My Brain

  1. Thanks again Tom for hosting us. We had a LOT of fun doing this! Tbh though, it was a nice excuse to show off our huge brains. 🙂 And thanks everyone for watching! We’ll be monitoring the comments, so feel free to ask us anything!

    We also want to give a shoutout to Brian from Adventure Science. He helped us film at the fMRI center and totally went above and beyond to make this video awesome. Here’s his channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0SMkRNvo12SO5WfXRl_C9g

    Also, it wasn’t intentional, but perhaps a subconscious desire for Micah to wear a red(ish) t-shirt in this video.

  2. That's unusual, I learnt very little in a video on Tom Scott's channel. 😛
    I've learnt about fMRI at university, and also had an fMRI scan as a kid, so I know what it feels and sounds like.

  3. You can't have a video on fMRI without talking about the paper: "Neural Correlates of Interspecies Perspective Taking in the Post-Mortem Atlantic Salmon: An Argument For Proper Multiple Comparisons Correction"

  4. *shudders *
    I have to go into one of them once a year and thanks to that machine I now know, that I am a bit claustrophobic -.-
    Had a panic attack my second time…. (and will have to go in there again in about three month ;_;)
    Thanks for explaining, why the machines makes those noises!
    Btw. here, they also give you a fluid in the middle of it all, that can highlight active areas (I guess you would translate it to contrast-fluid?)

  5. Gotta love the enthusiasm of the people in the vid. Having the knowledge and also finding a way to educate others in a exciting way is really inspiring.

  6. Thumbs down for the thumbnail. Getting so tired of seeing some brains in my recommended videos list the whole week.

  7. damn i wonder if I could get a copy of the file next time i smack my head on something and need to get an mri so i can print it out! print it out with one of the flexible filaments too!

  8. Really interesting stuff! I did know what fMRI does, more or less, but this was explained really well, and will definitely stick with me better than the previous info 😀

  9. My boyfriend has a neurology masters and did a 3D print of his brain around a year ago, I was already jealous but now even more so! (there aren't many options for me to get one within a geology masters xD)

  10. This title is a disappointing misnomer, to the point of clickbait. It's mistaking the model for the reality that leads people to distrust 'science' and its boasts. A less exaggerated title would have been "we made a 3D model of our brains" – still cool but not a lie.

  11. Found this video limited in scope and grossly oversimplified. But, for youth with an interest in science it is probably a decent introduction

  12. How is it that a magnet such as the magnet of the FMRI (which is '60.000 times more powerful than the earth's magnetic field') doesn't really affect anybody on earth or the earth itself, when the earth's magnetic field extends into space and protects us from solar winds? Whats the difference between those magnetic forces?

  13. I've seen Jello molds for brains, but it would be interesting to make one based on a real brain. Do any 3d printers allow food-safe printing?

  14. It’s cool to see how some of the grooves in their brains also line up, and see how the regions of our brains differ between people so much that even the simple folds are so intricately different.

  15. It's a forgone conclusion that you can't find out how something works if the thing you are looking at is broken.

  16. Great video overall, but I really loved the way they did the 3D printing time lapse to build up layer by layer instead of shots randomly throughout the print.

  17. Thing is they now need to rescan the brain because looking at their own brain would have changed it a tiny bit. Then you're stuck in an infinite loop of scans and 3d printouts.

  18. I'm curious if lying down, or just being horizontal, effects how our brain works. Are there any vertical fMRI machines?

  19. It's general knowledge, but when you really start to think about it, looking at somebody and imagining that there is a brain inside their head, it is a very weird feeling

  20. “Sir, where is the model for mine?”
    “Uh…”
    *drops a tiny piece of plastic into hand*
    “Damn. What scale is this? 1/500? Why is it super tiny?”
    “It’s… 1/1 scale.”

  21. When they said "did u see my brain?" I remembered "did u see my bag, did u see my bag, there's hella trophies in it and it's hella thick"😁😆🙂

  22. Hi Alie and Micah. A few years ago I read about a invention from South Korean researchers working in KAIST. Their device NIRSIT, they proposed works as good as fMRI, but is portable and light and wearable like a headphone. But ~3 years past after their claim, do u guys know anything about it? Can u make a review of it?

  23. How you make creepy things sound cool: Maggie and I like wanted to get into the machine to see how our parents brains 🧠 look like

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