By Dr. Brian McDonough

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – One of the best ways that scientists learn about the human body is by studying other animals.

Researchers at Harvard are taking MRIs of the brains of fish in virtual-reality swimming systems and monitoring brain activity associated with movement. The findings allow the researchers to understand which brain circuits are involved in specific activities.

Recent improvements in imaging technology have helped with the study of brain activity, and a type of fish called zebrafish provide a great way to look at activity associated with movements in response to different stimuli.

The scientists looked at the behavior in paralyzed fish in a virtual-reality environment. Flowing water and visual stimuli trick the fish into thinking they are swimming. They then took a look at the parts of the brain that were activated in the paralyzed fish — because they would get blurred images in fish that could move.

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