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Functional magnetic resonance imaging 

Functional magnetic resonance imaging
Chapter:
Functional magnetic resonance imaging
Author(s):

E. T. Bullmore

and J. Suckling

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199696758.003.0025
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date: 10 December 2019

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a relatively new technique for measuring changes in cerebral blood flow. The first fMRI studies, showing functional activation of the occipital cortex by visual stimulation and activation of the motor cortex by finger movement, were published in the early 1990s. In the years since then, fMRI has been used to investigate the physiological response to a wide variety of experimental procedures in both normal human subjects and diverse patient groups. In the next 10 years, fMRI will probably establish a role for itself in radiological and psychiatric practice; currently the clinical role of fMRI is limited to specialized applications such as assessment of hemispheric dominance prior to neurosurgery. The outstanding advantage of fMRI over alternative methods of imaging cerebral blood flow, such as positron emission tomo-graphy (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), is that it does not involve exposure to radioactivity. This means that a single subject can safely be examined by fMRI on many occasions, and that the ethical problems of examining patients are minimized. Functional MRI also has superior spatial resolution (in the order of millimetres) and temporal resolution (in the order of seconds) compared with PET and SPECT. In this chapter, we provide an introduction to technical issues relevant to fMRI data acquisition, study design, and analysis. An introduction to the basic physical principles of magnetization and nuclear magnetic resonance, and the technology, is given in Chapter 2.3.7. Many excellent specialist texts covering all aspects of functional magnetic resonance imaging are available for the reader seeking more detailed treatment of the issues.

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