Functional MRI (fMRI)
MR technology allows physicians to see the anatomic structure of the body's organs and tissues. Functional MR (fMR) enables physicians to see how the body functions. An fMRI is performed on a conventional MRI unit that consists of a very large magnet and uses a safe, non-invasive magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to take pictures of the brain while it is working. The technique measures changes in blood flow all over the brain. In this way, the fMRI scan allows us to see what areas of the brain are activated during a specific activity. For example, by having people perform simple tasks during the scan (such as moving digits or limbs) we can see which part of the brain controls those tasks.
At Boston Children's Hospital, fMR scans are used to provide additional information used for treatment planning for neurological disorders such as epilepsy, brain tumors, brain injury, mental retardation, autism, and learning disabilities. Read here about the fMR simulator that prepares kids for research studies. The hospital's Dream magazine also looks at fMR (Dream Magazine Research Edition, 2005).
Magnetoencephalography (MEG) monitors neural activity by recording magnetic fields in the brain. Current MEG devices are only available in adult sizes. In collaboration with the National Science Foundation, we are designing and building the first whole head MEG system for infants and children aged 0 to 3 years. This system will have the technical capabilities needed for monitoring neural activity in young patients.
MR tractography uses data sets from diffusion weighted images to show white matter organization and orientation of white matter fibers in the brain. Tractography is helpful for preoperative planning and understanding seizure propagation in epilepsy and other brain disorders. In the future, it may also be able to play a role in evaluating how the brain as a whole is connected, and how such connectivity is altered in certain disease states.
Encephalographic MRI (eMRI) is a research technique that combines advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEGs) in an attempt to more directly image the electrical changes in the brain than was previously possible. Early results demonstrate fast eMRI responses that correlate well with epilepsy spikes on the EEG. Work is now directed at trying to use eMRI to help with surgical planning for epilepsy patients. More generally, eMRI may prove to be a powerful tool for understanding the origin and spread of abnormal electrical activity in the brain in various epilepsy syndromes, both during wakefulness and sleep.
Computational Research Laboratory
Investigators in our Computational Research Laboratoryuse high performance computing technology to enhance radiological images and interpretation. This work helps pinpoint the origin of epileptic seizures and enhances navigation and visualization during image-guided brainsurgery.