Electronic cigarettes are a relatively novel technology, and research on their effects is still... quite lacking. Imanova scientists recently began to use e-cigarettes as substitutes for real cigarettes in a study of brain activity in smoker’s, using functional MRI (fMRI). Practical and safety issues mean that it is impossible to visualise brain activity during active smoking with traditional cigarettes, however e-cigarettes are usable in the confined space of an MRI scanner. For the first time, the brain activity related to the sensory and behavioural aspects of smoking have been recorded, showing a network of brain regions including the motor cortex and insula, and the putamen; an area previously implicated in reward functions and addiction. This work was presented at the British Neuroscience Association conference in April 2015, and a journal publication is forthcoming.
MRI structural scanning of the body has been used in a study of the weight-loss treatment... Orlistat (sold as ‘Alli’ in the UK). The MRI images in this case were used to quantify the amount of fat lost over a 3-month period, while the subjects were following a calorie-controlled diet and also using Alli. Overall weight loss is clearly very simple to measure with an ordinary bathroom scale, but what the MRI images showed was that a substantial proportion of visceral fat (fat that accumulates internally around the body organs, highlighted orange on the image) was lost, as well as subcutaneous fat. This is important because visceral fat deposits are thought to be more dangerous to health and is associated with health problems such as type 2 diabetes. These results were published in the following paper:
Thomas, E. L., Makwana, a, Newbould, R., Rao, a W., Gambarota, G., Frost, G., … Beaver, J. D. (2011). Pragmatic study of orlistat 60?mg on abdominal obesity. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 65(11), 1256–62. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2011.108.