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Johns Hopkins researchers pinpoint the cause of MRI vertigo

Public HealthSep 22 11

A team of researchers says it has discovered why so many people undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), especially in newer high-strength machines, get vertigo, or the dizzy sensation of free-falling, while inside or when coming out of the tunnel-like machine.

In a new study published in Current Biology online on Sept. 22, a team led by Johns Hopkins scientists suggests that MRI’s strong magnet pushes on fluid that circulates in the inner ear’s balance center, leading to a feeling of unexpected or unsteady movement. The finding could also call into question results of so-called functional MRI studies designed to detect what the brain and mind are doing under various circumstances.

To determine the mechanism behind MRI-induced vertigo, Dale C. Roberts, M.S., senior research systems engineer in the laboratory of David Zee, M.D., within the Department of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and his colleagues placed 10 volunteers with healthy labyrinths (inner tube-like structures in the ears that control balance) and two volunteers who lacked labyrinthine function into MRI scanners. They tracked vertigo not only by the volunteers’ reports, but also by looking for nystagmus, a type of involuntary eye movement that reflects the brain’s detection of motion - the kind of jerky eye tracking that a person on a merry-go-round might experience. Because visual clues can help suppress nystagmus, the researchers conducted their experiments in the dark.

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Singing after stroke? Why rhythm and formulaic phrases may be more important than melody

StrokeSep 22 11

After a left-sided stroke, many individuals suffer from serious speech disorders but are often able to sing complete texts relatively fluently. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, have now demonstrated that it is not singing itself that is the key. Instead, rhythm may be crucial. Moreover, highly familiar song lyrics and formulaic phrases were found to have a strong impact on articulation – regardless of whether they were sung or spoken. The results may lead the way to new rehabilitative therapies for speech disorders.

When a stroke damages speech areas in the brain’s left hemisphere, sufferers often have severe difficulties speaking – a condition known as non-fluent aphasia. Sometimes the inability to speak spontaneously is permanent. However, there are frequent cases of aphasics who are able to sing song lyrics and formulaic phrases relatively fluently. Until now, this astonishing observation has been explained by the fact that the right brain hemisphere, which supports important functions of singing, remains intact. Singing was thought to stimulate areas in the right hemisphere, which would then assume the function for damaged left speech areas. A treatment method known as Melodic Intonation Therapy is based on this idea.

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