Integrating Neuroimaging Measures in Nursing Research

Biol Res Nurs. 2023 Jul;25(3):341-352. doi: 10.1177/10998004221140608. Epub 2022 Nov 18.


Background: Medical and scientific advancement worldwide has led to a longer lifespan. With the population aging comes the risk of developing cognitive decline. The incorporation of neuroimaging measures in evaluating cognitive changes is limited in nursing research. The aim of this review is to introduce nurse scientists to neuroimaging measures employed to assess the association between brain and cognitive changes.

Methods: Relevant literature was identified by searching CINAHL, Web of Science, and PubMed databases using the following keywords: "neuroimaging measures," "aging," "cognition," "qualitative scoring," "cognitive ability," "molecular," "structural," and "functional."

Results: Neuroimaging measures can be categorized into structural, functional, and molecular imaging approaches. The structural imaging technique visualizes the anatomical regions of the brain. Visual examination and volumetric segmentation of select structural sequences extract information such as white matter hyperintensities and cerebral atrophy. Functional imaging techniques evaluate brain regions and underlying processes using blood-oxygen-dependent signals. Molecular imaging technique is the real-time visualization of biological processes at the cellular and molecular levels in a given region. Examples of biological measures associated with neurodegeneration include decreased glutamine level, elevated total choline, and elevated Myo-inositol.

Discussion: Nursing is at the forefront of addressing upstream factors impacting health outcomes across a lifespan of a population at increased risk of progressive cognitive decline. Nurse researchers can become more facile in using these measures both in qualitative and quantitative methodology by leveraging previously gathered neuroimaging clinical data for research purposes to better characterize the associations between symptom progression, disease risk, and health outcomes.

Keywords: “neuroimaging measures,” “nursing research,” “cognition,” and “health outcomes.”.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging* / methods
  • Nursing Research