Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) is a non-invasive technique that can be used to detect and quantify multiple metabolites. This chapter will review some of the applications of MRS to the study of brain functions. Typically, (1)H-MRS can detect metabolites reflecting neuronal density and integrity, markers of energy metabolism or inflammation, as well as neurotransmitters. The complexity of the proton spectrum has however led to the development of other nuclei-based methods, such as (31)P- and (13)C-MRS, which offer a broader chemical shift range and therefore can provide more detailed information at the level of single metabolites. The versatility of MRS allows for a wide range of clinical applications, of which neurodegeneration is an interesting target for spectroscopy-based studies. In particular, MRS can identify patterns of altered brain chemistry in Alzheimer's patients and can help establish differential diagnosis in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Using MRS to follow less abundant neurotransmitters is currently out of reach and will most likely depend on the development of methods such as hyperpolarization that can increase the sensitivity of detection. In particular, dynamic nuclear polarization has opened up a new and exciting area of medical research, with developments that could greatly impact on the real-time monitoring of in vivo metabolic processes in the brain.
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