Imaging in neuroscience

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or fMRI) describes the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure hemodynamic signals related to neural activity in the brain or spinal cord. It is one of the most recently developed forms of brain imaging (quote from Wikipedia, which has opened up a possibility of discovering the relation between the brain anatomy and its function. This, and other recent developments in the imaging of brain states while people undertake behavioural tasks, are providing new opportunities for scientists to study the relations between mental and neural processes. 

In May 2005 the new £2.25 million Birmingham University Imaging Centre (BUIC) funded through SCRIF2, has been opened. It houses a state-of-the-art, research-based 3T fMRI scanner, along with linked laboratories for experimental preparation and data analysis. BUIC is an inter-disciplinary collaboration between the Schools of Psychology, Medicine and Sport and Exercise Science, with input from Physics, Computer Science and Engineering. Research on the scanner will examine functional activity in a range of organs, from brain to heart, with studies of neural function initially focusing on sensory processing, attention and motor control, pain research, the "neural basis" of the social mind, and functional recovery after brain lesion. The work is supported by grants from the BBSRC, the EPSRC, MRC, the Stroke Association and the Wellcome Trust.

Linked to the research using fMRI, neuroscientists are using high resolution EEG/ERP to study the time course and the spatial localisation of neural processes as well as trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to produce temporal alterations in brain activity, with observable effects at a neural as well as a behavioural level. An initial goal of work in BUIC will be to link EEG/ERP and TMS procedures to fMRI activity, providing an advanced understanding of both the spatial and temporal localisation of neural activity, and of the neural networks that determine complex behaviours.

Changes in functional brain activation after training in reading: fMRI reveals recovery of function through the right hemisphere


Professor Glyn Humphreys, School of Psychology
Tel: 0121 414 4930