Apparently, when your guru talks about how your heart or spleen are full of "vibrations," she is kind of right. All of the tissues in our body are vibrating to some degree, and researchers in Paris have discovered that the rate at which they vibrate can actually tell us some things about whether you are sick or healthy.

The idea came from seismology, the study of earthquakes. Seismologists use advanced machinery to measure the degree of rumbling beneath the Earth's surface, before, during, and after earthquakes. This can give us some notice about upcoming tremors, though predictions are notoriously vague. But what if the same theories were used on a much smaller scale, and much smaller terrain. Say, I don't know, your brain?

"We tend to think of the brain as a static organ, but there is a lot of movement," explained study co-author Stefan Catheline, to New Scientist. "When blood is pumped into the brain, it pulsates, and induces vibrations."

Catheline used his seismologist colleagues' algorithm (ugh, Stefan is stealing algorithms again), along with a modified fMRI scanner, to measure the vibrations coming out of two healthy brains. Then he had a baseline of background noise, so to speak, already occurring in a healthy brain. Additional noise, or unexpected frequencies, in someone else's brain might hint at something being up, be it a tumor or other illness.

This new technology could tell us a lot more than MRI scans currently do. Right now, they essentially only allow a doctor to visually analyze brain cells. This can tell us a lot, but can still leave some problems undetected in early stages. 

The new scan, which measures elasticity and density through the earthquake algorithm, will give diagnosticians much more information. For example, Alzheimer's patients tend to have brains with higher elasticity than others. Perhaps the new technology can help doctors spot the disease before it takes over, or show them whether treatment is improving matters. It could also help surgeons prepare, because information about the density of a brain tumor can affect how they go after it in the operating room. But using scans in this way is probably still a few years off.

The research was published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Photo: Allan Ajifo | Flickr

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