Ever wonder what is going through Shaq’s mind when he scores a three pointer? Or what is happening inside Ronaldinho’s brain when he’s dancing with the ball? Answers to such questions and more will become easier with the new optical imaging systems that are under development at University College London and the University of Essex.
RxPG News reports that such imaging systems will have vast applications such as investigating mental imagery in sport, detecting the blood vessel growth around tumours, and monitoring brain damage in premature babies. Here are some exerpts from the report:
Optical tomography makes it possible to assess brain function in newborn and premature babies. A device developed at UCL measures the flight times of photons across the head using ultra-short pulses of laser light. The information is then used to reconstruct 3-D images of blood volume and oxygenation. The optical images can be used to characterise the how the brain develops and to detect abnormalities associated with brain damage.
Photoacoustic imaging allows mapping of tiny blood vessels that proliferate as a tumour grows. By imaging the oxygen levels in these blood vessels it may be possible to help predict how a tumour will respond to treatment. The technique works by firing extremely short laser pulses, which are a few billionths of a second in duration. These generate sound waves in tissue which are then detected at the surface and used to create an image.
Near infrared spectroscopy is a non-invasive technique which takes advantage of the relative absorption of different wavelengths of light and allows researchers to differentiate between oxygenated arterial blood – which appears red – and venous blood which appears purple/blue. Researchers at the University of Essex are shining light on the brain and the muscle; they are testing the theory that when Beckham visualises taking a free kick, the same blood flow pathways in his mind and body are activated as when he actually scores it…