Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging: methods and applications

N. Weiskopf*, R. Sitaram, O. Josephs, R. Veit, F. Scharnowski, R.W. Goebel, N. Birbaumer, R. Deichmann, K. Mathiak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been limited by time-consuming data analysis and a low signal-to-noise ratio, impeding online analysis. Recent advances in acquisition techniques, computational power and algorithms increased the sensitivity and speed of fMRI significantly, making real-time analysis and display of fMRI data feasible. So far, most reports have focused on the technical aspects of real-time fMRI (rtfMRI). Here, we provide an overview of the different major areas of applications that became possible with rtfMRI: online analysis of single-subject data provides immediate quality assurance and functional localizers guiding the main fMRI experiment or surgical interventions. In teaching, rtfMRI naturally combines all essential parts of a neuroimaging experiment, such as experimental design, data acquisition and analysis, while adding a high level of interactivity. Thus, the learning of essential knowledge required to conduct functional imaging, experiments is facilitated. rtfMRI allows for brain-computer interfaces (130) with a high spatial and temporal resolution and whole-brain coverage. Recent studies have shown that such BCI can be used to provide online feedback of the blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal and to learn the self-regulation of local brain activity. Preliminary evidence suggests that this local self-regulation can be used as a new paradigm in cognitive neuroscience to study brain plasticity and the functional relevance of brain areas, even being potentially applicable for psychophysiological treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-1003
JournalMagnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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