Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a safe and noninvasive method to probe human neuroanatomy. Functional MRI (fMRI) is a more recent methodology that uses MRI in a specialized manner that can measure brain activity in addition to anatomy. Functional MRI accomplishes this by detecting changes in blood oxygen levels, as cerebral blood flow is altered by local neuronal activation. This technology has revolutionized human neuroscience by allowing researchers to study moment-to-moment changes in the activity of the brain with high spatial resolution as people perform mental tasks, make decisions, recall memories, view pictures or movies, listen to stories, or even just daydream.
The PNI operates two state-of-the-art Siemens MAGNETOM 3-Tesla MRI scanners that are dedicated solely to neuroscience research. Our Siemens Skyra scanner is equipped with 64 independent receive channels and a 20-channel head-neck coil array that is optimized for high signal-to-noise and parallel imaging to reduce artifacts in fMRI data acquisition. Our new Siemens Prisma scanner offers even higher performance scanning, with 128 receive channels and a 64-channel head-neck coil. The Prisma scanner uses MR gradient coils capable of high speeds that are currently unmatched in the industry (up to 80 mT/m with a slew rate of 200 T/m/s on each axis simultaneously), thereby greatly enhancing both temporal and spatial resolution. Both scanners use high performance host computers whose systems support many inline technologies, such as real-time statistical analysis, 3-dimensional image overlays, and advanced diffusion-tensor-based white matter tractography.
A full range of peripheral devices are available at each scanner, enabling functional studies: visual and auditory stimulus presentation, manual, verbal, and eye-tracking response collection, as well as cardiac and respiratory physiological recording devices. The facility is also equipped with a fully MRI-compatible Brain Products 96-channel EEG system, as well as an RF coil development laboratory. Our two scanners are housed at the PNI room C34 suite in adjoining rooms, offering the possibility of coordinated scaning in which participants communicate directly with one another.