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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Research Project: Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging


David Soltysik, PhD
Sunder Rajan, PhD  

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a technology that yields an indirect measure of brain activation using the endogenous contrast of oxygenated hemoglobin. This project addresses the validity of fMRI as a biomarker in diagnosing and monitoring treatment of various neurological diseases and disorders. A poor understanding in the coupling between neural activity and vascular response creates uncertainties in the understanding of fMRI activation maps. Furthermore, variability in scanner performance, human neurophysiology, and subject performance increases the uncertainty of fMRI activation. The current research program focuses on testing the reproducibility of fMRI activation in specially designed fMRI phantoms and human subjects. The goal of this project is to create a greater understanding of the validity of fMRI activation maps to improve their use for clinical purposes.


Putting a subject in a 3T MRI scanner.


Group of maps of temporal SNR over voxels in the brain.


Activation maps of a right handed
finger-tapping task repeated nine times.


fMRI Problems:

  • Understanding the signal variability caused by hardware, physiological noise, and subject performance
  • Understanding the effects of age and disease on the hemodynamic response
  • Determining temporal SNR thresholds for reasonable fMRI activation maps
  • Investigating potential calibration procedures for fMRI