PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) - The Golden Globe nominated movie Concussion showed us there's still a lot to learn about severe brain injuries, but now there's a local company working with a Utah doctor to better diagnose them.
Doctor Wendell Gibby is a neuroradiologist and the director of Riverwoods Imaging Center in Provo. He's been working with the Utah-based company Novarad in creating new software for functional MRIs. Most MRIs look at anatomy, functional MRIs can show brain activity.
"There are many situations in humans where the brain can be severely injured or dysfunctional and yet the anatomy looks normal," explained Dr. Gibby.
To show how it works Good4Utah's Kimberly Nelson decided to get the MRI and take the brain function tests. Typically this process takes close to two hours, Nelson only took one 10 minute test that primarily looked at how her occipital lobe is functioning.
Dr. Gibby said, "We put you in the MRI scanner and then we took thousands of images as you did different types of tests. In your case we were looking at object recognition and so you're visual association cortex was working. We can show you an object and then you try to identify what that was."
Novarad's imaging software allows Dr. Gibby to compare Nelson's brain with so-called normal brains; a control made up of an average of about 200 healthy brains. "So this is normal structure and this is normal activation," said Gibby.
Nelson admits to having suffered several serious head injuries, the most recent concussion came from a skiing accident two years ago. "In your case you can see there's not as much activation here in the central occipital region, probably because you've been dinged on the head a few times," said Dr. Gibby. "As you've indicated you've had some concussions, and it turns out this area of the brain is very close to where you can get an injury."
Dr. Gibby says the fMRIs can also be used to diagnose Alzheimer's, dementia and the effects of drug abuse, and may one day be used in the diagnosis of autism and even schizophrenia.