Concussions can be dramatic or go almost unnoticed, but all cause some amount of long-term damage. Recent studies have shown that concussions may affect the white matter in the brain: the superhighways that carry information from one brain area to another. People who have previously had concussions are at a greater risk of future concussions, and a study from Purdue University found that even football players who didn’t get concussions suffered a small decline in performance on some cognitive tests for each impact on their helmets.
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There are different ways to look inside the brain, each with different levels of risk. One of the most popular research tools is MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. This method uses a large magnet and some radio waves to look at the different tissues of the brain. MRI is not considered to pose a significant risk unless you have certain types of metal in your body, like a pacemaker. A second type of imaging is PET, or positron emission tomography. This type of imaging involves injecting a small amount of a radioactive tracer into the blood and tracking it as it arrives in the brain. PET does expose an individual to radiation, but the radioactivity injected for a PET scan (5mSv) is well under the Health Canada yearly limit (50mSv). In clinical practice, computed tomography (CT) scans are much more common, especially in neurosurgery and neurology. This is probably because CT scans are faster and less expensive than MRI scans. CT scans use x-rays; the radiation from 1 CT scan is roughly equivalent to the amount a person is exposed to in 2.7 years of daily life.
A BIT OF NEUROSCIENCE HISTORY...
In 1985, the Montreal Neurological Institute (affectionately called The Neuro) acquired the very fist MRI scanner in the country. This past February 2019, The Neuro acquired Canada's very first full-body 7-Tesla Siemens scanner, the most powerful MRI scanner currently in the country. It goes without saying that The Neuro always strives to be on top of the most recent technology when it comes to looking into people's brains!