What is the fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging)?

You must have listened about MRI which is being done to analyze brain or any king of damage in brain. Now we have a new type of scan technology in the field of medical science i.e. fMRI functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. fMRI is a technique through which analyzer or doctor is able to find out the thinking and feeling of any patient. In a way we can say it is a process through which doctor is able to read your mind.

MRI and fMRI utilizes similar platform of magnetic resonance imaging which has a strong magnetic field and radio waves to make the descriptive images of the body. In case of fMRI it studies the blood flow in the brain to detect active activity areas. As the blood flow changes it is captured by computer and help the doctor to understand the working of brain. Each area of Brain studied in fMRI is made up of thousands of individual neurons, each of which has a unique thing in it. Because some regions of brain light up on fMRI may represent number of different functions. It is difficult to know what type of brain activity is being represented on the scan.

In our body the oxygen rich blood and oxygen poor blood have distinct behavior when a magnetic field is applied. Both of them give separate magnetic resonance. Researchers have the notion that more active areas of brain receive more oxygen rich blood. fMRI analyze this increased blood flow to pinpoint higher activity. This measurement of blood flow, blood volume and oxygen used is called (blood oxygen level dependent) BOLD signal.

What is the fMRI

fMRI working: under test conditions patient is allowed to lie on a table and head is bounded in a brace to hold it still. Then patient is slide into the large cylindrical MRI machine with headfirst and earplugs are given to defer sound. During the time when machine is scanning the brain of patient, he is asked to perform some task which increases oxygen rich blood flow to a specific part of brain. The time of test varies from few minutes to hours. After the scan is done radiologist interpret the results.

fMRI study: the most popular use of fMRI is detecting injured or diseased organ or tissue like brain tumors, detection of Alzheimer or beginning of brain seizures etc. Furthermore it can be used in applications like as follows:

Brain mapping
Planning surgery
Analyzing emotions
Market research
Detecting LIE

Positive and negative aspects of fMRI: fMRI does not use harmful radiations like X-rays, CT, PET scans. If the fMRI is done under proper guidance and system fMRI has no risk or minimal risk. It is easy to use and image it generates are of superfine resolution.

Still fMRI has some drawbacks. First of all it is very expensive. Not all people can afford it. Secondly clear images can be obtained only if the person is still. Thirdly, researchers do not themselves understand how it works. Another big issue is that fMRI only study blood flow in brain and do not take in account individual nerve cells (nuerons) which are crucial to mental functional.

Even the results of fMRI are difficult to interpret. Because of these issues, fMRI is nothing more than a high-tech version of phrenology, 19th century pseudo science that claimed to disclose person’s character based solely on shape of patient’s skull.

In upcoming researchers hope to make fMRI more scientific and enhance its accuracy by focusing on individual neurons. Scientists estimates that by recording electrical activity in neurons they will get a more complete and precise picture of brain activity.