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 Brain scans now catch chemicals too

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Date posted: 25/03/2010

A chemical produced during sex and linked to addiction has been visualised in a scanner as it washes across rats' brains. The feat means that functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a workhorse of neuroscience, can now be used to observe the flow of brain chemicals, not just oxygen-rich blood.

By pinpointing increases in blood oxygenation in the brain in response to different events ? a sign that specific groups of neurons are active ? fMRI is responsible for some of the hottest findings about the brain. Now Alan Jasanoff at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues have extended its power.

His team repeatedly mutated a magnetic, iron-containing enzyme that "lights up" in fMRI readings. With each mutation, the researchers tested its tendency to bind to dopamine, a learning and reward chemical in the brain involved in sex and addictive behaviours. Mutations that increased this tendency were combined, resulting in a molecule that was both magnetic and strongly attracted to dopamine.

See the full Story via external site: www.newscientist.com



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