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J Integr Neurosci. 2009 Sep;8(3):371-403.

Seven topics in functional magnetic resonance imaging.

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Functional MRI Facility & Section on Functional Imaging Methods, National Institute of Mental Health, Rm 1D80b, 10 Center Dr., Bethesda, MD 20817, USA.


Functional MRI (fMRI) is a non-invasive brain imaging methodology that started in 1991 and allows human brain activation to be imaged at high resolution within only a few minutes. Because it has extremely high sensitivity, is relatively easy to implement, and can be performed on most standard clinical MRI scanners. It continues to grow at an explosive rate throughout the world. Over the years, at any given time, fMRI has been defined by only a handful of major topics that have been the focus of researchers using and developing the methodology. In this review, I attempt to take a snapshot of the field of fMRI as it is in mid-2009 by discussing the seven topics that I feel are most on the minds of fMRI researchers. The topics are, in no particular order or grouping: (1) Clinical impact, (2) Utilization of individual functional maps, (3) fMRI signal interpretation, (4) Pattern effect mapping and decoding, (5) Endogenous oscillations, (6) MRI technology, and (7) Alternative functional contrast mechanisms. Most of these topics are highly interdependent, each advancing as the others advance. While most fMRI involves applications towards clinical or neuroscience questions, all applications are fundamentally dependent on advances in basic methodology as well as advances in our understanding of the relationship between neuronal activity and fMRI signal changes. This review neglects almost completely an in-depth discussion of applications. Rather the discussions are on the methods and interpretation.

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