Everything You Need to Know About Brain Scans: Types, Uses and More

Types of Brain Scans

Brain scans, also known as neuroimaging techniques, are used to visualize and assess the structure, function, and activity of the brain. They play a crucial role in diagnosing and monitoring various neurological conditions. Here are some common types of brain scans:

1. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a widely used imaging technique that provides detailed and high-resolution images of the brain’s structures. It uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-sectional images. MRI is effective in detecting abnormalities such as tumors, strokes, infections, and structural changes in the brain. It can also help visualize blood vessels and assess brain function in certain cases.

2. Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

Computed Tomography (CT) scan, also referred to as a CAT scan, uses a series of X-ray images taken from different angles to create cross-sectional images of the brain. CT scans are useful for identifying structural abnormalities, bleeding, fractures, and tumors. They are relatively quick and widely available, making them suitable for emergency situations where prompt assessment is required.

3. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan is a functional imaging technique that measures metabolic and biochemical activity in the brain. It involves the injection of a small amount of radioactive tracer into the bloodstream. The tracer emits positrons, which are detected by a scanner to create three-dimensional images. PET scans are useful for studying brain function, identifying areas of reduced blood flow or glucose metabolism, and diagnosing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and tumors.

4. Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) Scan

Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) scan is another functional imaging technique that measures blood flow and brain activity. It uses a radioactive tracer and a specialized camera to create images of brain function. SPECT scans are often used to assess blood flow changes, identify areas of reduced activity, and evaluate conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, and psychiatric disorders.

5. Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An Electroencephalogram (EEG) measures the electrical activity of the brain through electrodes placed on the scalp. It is commonly used to evaluate brain function, diagnose epilepsy and sleep disorders, and monitor brain activity during surgeries. EEG recordings can help identify abnormal patterns, seizures, and other neurological conditions.

6. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood oxygenation and flow. It provides insights into brain functioning during specific tasks or resting states. fMRI is often used in research settings to study cognitive processes, sensory perception, and brain networks. It can help identify areas of brain activation and connectivity related to various functions and disorders.


These are some of the common types of brain scans used in clinical and research settings. Each technique has its own strengths and limitations, and the choice of scan depends on the specific diagnostic or research goals. Brain scans are valuable tools for assessing brain structure, function, and activity, allowing healthcare professionals to better understand and diagnose neurological conditions, plan treatments, and monitor patient progress.