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fMRI vs. MRI

Anthony R McIntosh mcintosh at forest.nia.nih.gov
Fri Oct 1 09:42:23 EST 1993

In article <28gh3k$gb8 at charm.magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu> you write:
>I am asking this for a friend: what are the major differences between
>fMRI and MRI?  What are the advantages of fMRI?  The price range of
>fMRI?  Any information will be greatly appreciated.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) for brain imaging, in general, is
used for view the structure of the brain.  It is especially useful for
detecting small anatomical changes as a result of disease processes or
trauma that cannot be resolved in a CT scanner.  It has great research
utility for correlating strucutural changes/differences with behavior.
fMRI (functional MRI) is a recent development in MR technology that
allows you to obtain a 'functional' image of the brain by measuring
blood flow (blood oxygenation actually in certain cases).  This is a
hot area because the hope is that you would eventually be able to take
advantage of the high spatial resolution of MRI and the far superior
temporal resolution of fMRI - relative to PET (cf. PET takes about 1
min / scan - fMRI ~500 msec to 10 sec).  So the major difference is
the MRI images structure and fMRI images function.

There is no real 'advantage' for one over the other since they have
different purposes.  

As for price range, if you mean to buy the machine itself - both can
be done on the same machine - but there are additional hardware and
software requirments for fMRI so it will be  more expensive.  We're
not talking a couple hundred dollars for a scanner though - more like
hundreds of thousands to millions - so the differences are rather
insignificant if you can afford to get the scanner in the first place.

If you mean how much to get a scan, fMRI is not yet used for
diagnostic purposes and is still in it's infancy in terms of
technological developments so the only way to get an fMRI is to be a
subject in an experiment.


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