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Critically consider one invasive method and one non-invasive method of studying the brain

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Jon Golby        TG = 330M        30/04/07

Critically consider one invasive method and one non-invasive method of studying the brain

There are a number of invasive methods of studying the brain.  One such technique is ablation and lesion production.

The ablation technique involves surgically removing or destroying brain tissue.  A study into this technique was conducted by Flourens (1820); who showed that the removal of thin slices of brain tissue; resulted in them displaying poor co-ordination and sense of balance but, they experienced no other difficulties.

Meanwhile, lesion production involves deliberately injuring a specific area of the brain and observing the behavioural changes that occur as a result.  The aim of lesion studies is to tell us something about how different areas of the brain are connected.

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Other invasive methods of investigating the brain include; chemical stimulation of the brain and Electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB).  One such investigation was conducted by Olds + Milner (54).  In this experiment, they found that when they stimulated the hypothalamus of rats, they appeared to increase the frequency of whatever behaviour they were engaged in.  Further research that they conducted on rats also hinted to the existence of both “pleasure centres” and “pain centres” within the brain.  Again, as with all invasive methods; there are ethical considerations such as the possibility of distress being caused to the rats; the lack of an ability to generalise the results of the experiments to humans, (since the experiments were conducted on animals); and the issue of “localisation of function” against “distributed function”

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still not shown.  In order to see this, a PET scan would need to be used.

CAT’s, MRI’s and PET’s are all used within medicine to help diagnose diseases such as epilepsy/schizophrenia through analysis of the results that are obtained from the scans.

However, more recent techniques help to show brain function holistically e.g. fMRI, MEG etc.  These provide a much clearer image of the structure of the brain thus providing more information about the brain for the “localisation of function” versus “distributed function” debate.  They also show more clearly the individual functions of the brain.  However, they are very expensive and difficult to access, as e.g. a MEG must be carried out in a magnetically shielded area to prevent inaccurate readings being obtained.

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