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Eur J Radiol. 1999 May;30(2):84-94.

Exploring brain function with magnetic resonance imaging.

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Department of Biomorphological and Functional Sciences, II University of Naples, Italy.


Since its invention in the early 1990s, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has rapidly assumed a leading role among the techniques used to localize brain activity. The spatial and temporal resolution provided by state-of-the-art MR technology and its non-invasive character, which allows multiple studies of the same subject, are some of the main advantages of fMRI over the other functional neuroimaging modalities that are based on changes in blood flow and cortical metabolism. This paper describes the basic principles and methodology of fMRI and some aspects of its application to functional activation studies. Attention is focused on the physiology of the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) contrast mechanism and on the acquisition of functional time-series with echo planar imaging (EPI). We also provide an introduction to the current strategies for the correction of signal artefacts and other image processing techniques. In order to convey an idea of the numerous applications of fMRI, we will review some of the recent results in the fields of cognitive and sensorimotor psychology and physiology.

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