The road to functional imaging and ultrahigh fields

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The Center for Magnetic Resonance (CMRR) at the University of Minnesota was one of the laboratories where the work that simultaneously and independently introduced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of human brain activity was carried out. However, unlike other laboratories pursuing fMRI at the time, our work was performed at 4. T magnetic field and coincided with the effort to push human magnetic resonance imaging to field strength significantly beyond 1.5. T which was the high-end standard of the time. The human fMRI experiments performed in CMRR were planned between two colleagues who had known each other and had worked together previously in Bell Laboratories, namely Seiji Ogawa and myself, immediately after the Blood Oxygenation Level Dependent (BOLD) contrast was developed by Seiji. We were waiting for our first human system, a 4. T system, to arrive in order to attempt at imaging brain activity in the human brain and these were the first experiments we performed on the 4. T instrument in CMRR when it became marginally operational. This was a prelude to a subsequent systematic push we initiated for exploiting higher magnetic fields to improve the accuracy and sensitivity of fMRI maps, first going to 9.4. T for animal model studies and subsequently developing a 7. T human system for the first time. Steady improvements in high field instrumentation and ever expanding armamentarium of image acquisition and engineering solutions to challenges posed by ultrahigh fields have brought fMRI to submillimeter resolution in the whole brain at 7. T, the scale necessary to reach cortical columns and laminar differentiation in the whole brain. The solutions that emerged in response to technological challenges posed by 7. T also propagated and continues to propagate to lower field clinical systems, a major advantage of the ultrahigh fields effort that is underappreciated. Further improvements at 7. T are inevitable. Further translation of these improvements to lower field clinical systems to achieve new capabilities and to magnetic fields significantly higher than 7. T to enable human imaging is inescapable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-735
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 15 2012


  • 4Tesla
  • 7T
  • 7Tesla
  • BOLD
  • Brain imaging
  • FMRI
  • Functional imaging
  • High field
  • MRI
  • Multiband
  • Neuroimaging
  • Slice accelerated imaging
  • Slice acceleration
  • Ultrahigh field

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