Functional magnetic resonance imaging: clinical applications and potential.
Matthews PM., Clare S., Adcock J.
Demonstration that contrast in magnetic resonance images can be generated based on differences in blood oxygenation has led to an explosion of interest in so-called functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI). FMRI can be used to map increases in blood flow that accompany local synaptic activity in the brain. The technique has proved remarkably sensitive and has been used to map a broad range of cognitive, motor and sensory processes in the brain entirely non-invasively. More recently, efforts have been made to extend this technique to the analysis of clinical problems. A major application is for presurgical localization of cerebral functions, e.g. in the surgical treatment of epilepsy. The technique also is beginning to provide information on functional consequences of abnormal brain development. Perhaps most exciting are applications to neurological impairments that are not associated with structural abnormalities, such as learning problems, dyslexia and movement disorders. It is possible that useful applications of FMRI may be found for directly mapping sites of action of CNS-active drugs. Although the extent of the potential clinical applications of this new brain mapping technique is not clear, the widespread availability of MRI scanners suggests that the technique should in some form soon become a routine tool in major neuroradiological centres.