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What Is Brain Mapping?

Brain mapping can help show which areas of a patient's brain are dysfunctional and which are healthy.
Brain mapping studies look at currents in the brain while the patient performs certain tasks.
Brain mapping can detect physical injury or degeneration.
Mapping a patient's brain can help detect obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other psychiatric issues.
Humans have the most complex and sophisticated brains in the animal kingdom.
Article Details
  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Brain mapping is a scientific method of studying brainwave activity. The study often looks at the electrical currents in the brain while the patient performs specific tasks. The goal is to increase understanding of brain structure and which parts of the brain react to different types of thinking and stimulus. It can also be used to compare physically, emotionally, or cognitively injured or dysfunctional brains to normal brains in order to study what areas of the brain are responsible for the dysfunction.

Using current brain scan technology, brain mapping measures brainwave activity via QEEG (quantitative electroencephalogram). The data are translated into a topographic color-coded map of electrical activity in the brain. The QEEG scan can analyze the characteristics of brainwaves, such as symmetry, coherence, and dominant frequency.

Brain mapping information is acquired by placing an elastic cap on the patient's head. The cap has 19 sensors, which are all attached to the scalp with a special kind of conductive gel. The sensors are connected to a recording device that tracks brainwave activity and where the activity is occurring in the brain. The recording typically takes 10 to 30 minutes, while the patient is asked to perform various tasks, depending on what is being studied.

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Studying localization of function, what parts of the brain are responsible for different functions of the brain, is a major purpose of brain mapping. Human beings are at the top of the animal kingdom, mostly due to superior cognitive abilities. Certainly the human brain isn't the largest, but it is the most complex and sophisticated brain. These scans allow researchers to see how and where brainwaves react while patients think creatively or use logical problem-solving skills. They can also study what roll brainwaves play in emotional reactions.

The goal of brain mapping is to eventually have a comprehensive map of the brain and understand what it does and how it works. The human brain still holds many mysteries for scientists, but as technology progresses so does understanding of the brain. The hope is that someday scientists may be able to develop a brain map as thorough as Google Earth. Instead of zooming out to continents and zooming into streets and buildings, scientists hope to develop the same level of understand about brainwave patterns and specific neurons.

Brain mapping can detect mental health dysfunction, such as anxiety disorders, ADD, and OCD. The findings can be compared to a normative database. This is a collection of healthy brainwave function. The data are able to highlight which areas of the brain have excessive electrical activity and where the brain is showing diminished activity.

This kind of mapping can also detect physical injury or degeneration. Brainwave activity is affected by injury and illness in the brain. Researchers can use the same process they use to find mental health issues to locate where the brain is showing abnormal brainwave activity from physical illness or injury. Concussions, seizure disorders, and Alzheimer's disease can all be detected using brain mapping. This not only helps researchers understand the brain better, but it may eventually help them understand how to reverse or correct the problem.

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