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E. Illuminating Studies of the Brain

Narrator: This is Science Today. Since the early 1990s, researchers have been able to use a technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify regions of the brain involved in performing specific tasks. Dr. Greg Brown, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, says it's been exciting for researchers to have this technology available.

Brown: When I was a graduate student, studies of the brain relied on injecting air into the cerebral spinal fluid or dyes into the blood vessels that were sometimes very traumatic for the subject.

Narrator: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Brown has been able to visually study the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain during verbal and arithmetic task, by measuring which parts of the brain "lit" up.

Brown: These experiments use an intrinsic contrast in constituents of the blood to mark brain activation - regions of brain activation, so it's a totally natural brain response and can therefore be repeated without any risk to the subject, over and over as many times as need be.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.