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Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a method of producing a three-dimensional image of the physiology and chemistry of the body.

PET scans can measure important physiological processes, such as blood flow, oxygen use and glucose metabolism. They are commonly used to detect neurological disorders, including memory disorders, Parkinson's disease and strokes.

A more technical breakdown of PET imaging:

  • PET uses small amounts of radioactive molecules.
  • As the molecules decay, they release gamma rays that exit the body.
  • The PET scanner detects these gamma rays.
  • A computer algorithm then uses this information to map the source and concentration of the radioactive molecules. Numerous radiotracers have been developed for use in PET imaging that enable the in vivo measurement of neurochemistry and physiology.

Because radiotracers can be used to label compounds without influencing their pharmacology, functional imaging with PET can accurately measure drug distribution and pharmacokinetics in the brain, serving as a vital component of the addiction studies at Yerkes.