fMRI in action

The new AQA spec (soon to be approved, we hear) includes, at A Level, ‘ways of studying the brain: scanning techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)’. This YouTube video gives a functional, magnetic and resonant view of what fMRI involves and what its results look like in practice.

The AQA spec is concerned with the appropriateness and effectiveness of ways of studying the brain, and this clip could be useful for showing how fMRI works well for comparing brains between different types of people (in this case people in vegetative states with people who are not), and is effective in picking up changes in the brain at the superficial level (the motor cortex in this case).

The clip then goes on to look at a brain scan produced by diffusion tensor imagining (DTI), which is a magnetic resonance imaging technique but students need to be clear that these DTI images are not produced by fMRI. DTI images white matter structures in the brain through measurements of water diffusion, fMRI images changes in brain activity through changes in the supply of blood to brain tissues.