A friend of mine who uses  functional MRI (fMRI) scanned my brain for a neuroimaging study. All it involved was sitting in the scanner for ~45 minutes while I looked at a bunch of faces. At the end, I got a disc of the scan, which let me see the anatomy of my brain for the first time. As you can see below, I had some fun with it. If you're a specialist and see something off, let me know!

MRI of a human brain.

What is MRI? It stands for magnetic resonance imaging, and it's a good way to non-invasively scan (or image) the body. It does this by using a super strong magnet which essentially sends magnetic waves to excite water molecules in the body. When they get excited, the water molecules emit their own waves back, which the MRI machine then records. These waves ultimately are used to create an image of the body where those water molecules were.

In neuroscience, this is a great way to visualize the anatomy of the brain (in this case, my brain).

Reconstructing a brain in VR.

You can think of the MRI as a series of images (or sections) that are taken at different slices of brain. The first animation you saw above is just me running through all the images in sequence. But I wanted to be able to see my brain from multiple angles, so I took the MRI images and reconstructed them in a virtual reality (VR) environment that allows me to slice through the brain at any angle and make it as big or as small as I would like. As you can see, it's pretty cool to be able to play with your own head in this way!


I decided to take the MRI data and reconstruct the scan of my brain (mainly the gray matter) in 3D - because why not. Thanks to the help of MO, my more computationally savvy friend, I now have this 3D rendering of my brain as an STL file. My next step will be to 3D print this for my desk.

3D printing of the brain.

I finally to the step of printing the brain. This took approximately an entire day. I used the Ultimaker S5 and the printing material was white PLA with water-soluble PVA for the supports.