Face of the giant panda sign

I’ve just discovered a curious medical finding that can be detected on MRI brain scans called the ‘face of the giant panda sign’ where, quite literally, it looks like there’s a panda face in the middle of the brain, indicating a specific pattern of neural damage.

The image you can see on the left is the ‘face of the giant panda sign’ that appeared in a brain scan of a patient with multiple sclerosis who started showing unusual sexual behaviour and is taken from a 2002 study. Click the image if you want to see the whole scan.

The pattern is apparently caused by “high signal in the tegmentum, normal signals in the red nuclei and lateral portion of the pars reticulata of the substantia nigra, and hypointensity of the superior colliculus”.

It is most associated with Wilson’s disease, a genetic condition which causes a toxic build-up of copper in the body, but obviously can appear in other disorders as well.

Thanks to Twitter user @sarcastic_f for alerting me to this.

It’s not just pandas that appear in brain scans of course, the Virgin Mary has also been known to make an appearance.

Link to PubMed entry for MS study.
Link to brief description from Neurology.

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