This is what a brain scan sounds like

I’ve been in the laboratories of Oxford University. Having an experimental brain scan…

The other day I was laid on my back in a darkened room, listening to a hammering beat that sounded something between a pneumatic drill and the idling engine of a heavy goods truck.

No, I’ve not been carousing in the nightclubs of Ibiza. (Frankly, you would have to pay me!)

Instead, I’ve been in the laboratories of Oxford University…

Having an experimental brain scan.

A clean bill of health

I am pleased to report that my brain is in good working order.

Lying on my back in the CT scanner for twenty minutes – listening to the annoying disco beat – I was asked to watch a series of images flashing in quick succession…

A digger, a fork, an orange, a man in blue trousers, a washing machine, a washing machine again…

Every time the same image appeared consecutively I had to press a button.

Gloria Pizzamiglio, who was conducting this test, told me I did rather well. And no, I’ve not been volunteering for medical experiments just to meet young ladies with glamorous names.

That’s just a perk!

The truth is, earlier this year, during Oxford’s Science week, I visited the Department of Experimental Psychology…

While there I put my name down on a list of volunteers. Not long after I got an email asking if I would be prepared to take part in a study conducted by Dr Elisabeth Rounis.

A different perspective

Here’s why Dr Rounis was running the test, in her own words:

“Limb apraxia is often observed in patients following a stroke or in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. In stroke patients this often involves the unaffected hand as well as the hand that has become weak following their stroke. We think that the reason why this condition is impaired relates to the way they use visual information to guide action targeted to object use.”

That’s medical talk for you!

The basic point of the study was to see how my brain functions while doing the simple recognition test. The idea is that maybe one day it will help with the treatment of stroke patients.

For me the whole experience was very interesting, if a little alarming.

While lying in the MRI tube I could not help wondering whether the operator had forgotten about me and gone home. Would I be able to get out without his help?

It also made me think of the whole nature of these trials. Before qualifying for the trial I had to give affirmative answers to many questions that could easily have ruled me out – such as whether I had any metal implants or was prone to feinting.

Who else volunteers for these trials? Are they only strange creatures like myself with an interest in medical science? Are they a proper representative sample?

I don’t know.

But I’m glad I took part.

In the biotech sector, so much depends on the outcome of these trials. As editor of Breakthrough Biotech Alert I spend a lot of time checking the latest trial results, looking for clues to help me spot the next blockbuster drug or treatment.

In fact, as Glenn mentioned earlier in the week, my latest biotech briefing is based on a series of astonishing results in obscure clinical trials for cancer treatments.

You can read that here.

I must say, it was interesting to experience a clinical trial from the patient’s perspective.

And it was nice to sit in the waiting room reading the tired old magazines knowing that it was not poor health that had brought me there.

Anyway – enough of this writing!

Dementia lies ahead one day, I suppose. I’d better get back to my crossword and Sudoku. You know what they say about the brain… use it or lose it!

Best wishes,

Tom Bulford
For The Executive Bulletin

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