How Do MRIs Work?
If you’re reading this, chances are you have a brain--a three-pound, pink blob of fat and water, sitting within your skull and automatically turning these squiggly lines on your screen into actual words you can understand. Historically, it’s been difficult to understand what different parts of the brain do, since the only way to look at a test subject’s brain is if the brain is already inactive, or if they have an extremely lucky head injury.
Besides, even if we had clear skin and bones, so that we could see all of our organs at all times, we still would only be able to see the surface of the brain, and not all the activity going on inside. Enter: MRI Machines. While X-Rays are perfect for looking at our bones, MRI Machines, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging Machines, can look past our skin directly at the more juicy (I assume) parts of our body. How does it work, you ask? The same way all magic works: with extremely powerful magnets.
Our bodies are about 10% hydrogen, but most of it is concentrated in places with a lot of water and fat (remember at the beginning of this post, when I said the brain was a blob of fat and water? That’ll be important soon). Hydrogen atoms are just one proton and one electron, so when you magnetize them, they all align in the same direction.
An MRI just takes this fact to the extreme, with an electromagnetic tube that you’re placed inside to calibrate your molecules, so to speak. The next step is to shoot radio waves through your body, which disrupts the magnets and returns a map of one of your organs or glands. And violà! You can see all the different neuron activity within your brain, while it’s still in your head.
Unfortunately, it isn't easy to see a brain on a day-to-day basis. MRI Machines are quite difficult--and costly--to install in your home, and the only alternative is... legally dubious at best. Here's a cheaper and more accessible alternative: get your very own brain plushie! It may not have the exact realism of an actual real human brain, but it compensates with adorable softness. It's the perfect trade!
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