Functional mapping in the human brain using high magnetic fields

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An avidly pursued new dimension in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research is the acquisition of physiological and biochemical information non-invasively using the nuclear spins of the water molecules in the human body. In this trial, a recent and unique accomplishment was the introduction of the ability to map human brain function non-invasively. Today, functional images with subcentimetre resolution of the entire human brain can be generated in single subjects and in data acquisition times of several minutes using 1.5 tesla (T) MRI scanners that are often used in hospitals for clinical purposes. However, there have been accomplishments beyond this type of imaging using significantly higher magnetic fields such as 4 T. Efforts for developing high magnetic field human brain imaging and functional mapping using MRI (fMRI) were undertaken at about the same time. It has been demonstrated that high magnetic fields result in improved contrast and, more importantly, in elevated sensitivity to capillary level changes coupled to neuronal activity in the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) contrast mechanism used in fMRI. These advantages have been used to generate, for example, high resolution functional maps of ocular dominance columns, retinotopy within the small lateral geniculate nucleus, true single-trial fMRI and early negative signal changes in the temporal evolution of the BOLD signal. So far these have not been duplicated or have been observed as significantly weaker effects at much lower field strengths. Some of these high-field advantages and accomplishments are reviewed in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1195-1213
Number of pages19
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1387
StatePublished - Jul 29 1999


  • BOLD contrast
  • Brain function
  • FMRI
  • Functional mapping
  • Human brain imaging


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