fMRI Techniques and Protocols

fMRI Techniques and Protocols. Neuromethods Volume 41. Massimo Filippi (Editor). Humana Press 2009, 822 pages, 254 illustrations, 109 in color, $169.00.

Compiling a textbook on the rapidly advancing and diverse field of fMRI is a difficult task, and the authors of this book have come through with remarkable success.  fMRI Techniques and Protocols is a well written and comprehensive book on state-of-the-art technology and fMRI and accurately depicts fMRI as an invaluable tool for studying brain function.  The book is organized into four sections with the chapters of each section authored by different authorities in the field.  Part I “BOLD fMRI: Basic Principles” reviews the basic physics, engineering, and physiological underpinning of fMRI and provides a solid foundation of its technical aspects.  Part II “fMRI Application to Measure Brain Function” reviews many of the applications in which fMRI is utilized to study brain function of several key areas such as memory, emotion, and language systems.  Part III “fMRI Clinical Application” demonstrates the clinical utility of fMRI by reviewing several powerful real world examples such as fMRI guided neurosurgery.  Part IV “Future fMRI Development” provides some insight into what may be expected of this rapidly evolving technology in the future.

The book begins with a comprehensive review of the fundamentals of MRI and fMRI, techniques to optimize data collection, the processing of the data, the statistical analysis of the data, and the different modeling of the data.  The first several chapters introduce the reader to the physics of MRI, the haemodynamic response, the BOLD effect and the hardware involved in these experiments.  Following chapters describe appropriate methods for conducting fMRI studies including optimal pulse sequence selection, the advantages and drawbacks of high-field fMRI and the tailoring of experimental design to best isolate the psychological process.  Part I concludes with several excellent chapters discussing the techniques employed in the statistical analysis of fMRI data, the modeling of brain responses to assess their impact upon the fMRI data, and the incorporation of brain atlases to integrate brain structure and function.  These techniques allow inferences about the functional organization of the brain to be advanced as well as facilitate the comparison of datasets across subjects and groups.

Part II focuses on the many different applications of fMRI in the measurement of brain function.  The topics that are examined in this section include: language systems, visual attention systems, memory, emotion, pain, sensorimotor system, visual system, auditory system and applications in cognitive neuroscience.  These chapters will be quite useful to many researchers as they provide a comprehensive review of how functional imaging methods have been applied to elucidate the fundamental aspects of brain function.

The clinically oriented section of the book, Part III, depicts several applications that illustrate that fMRI is making the transition from a research tool to a diagnostic tool.  The clinical applications reviewed in this section consist of: Multiple Sclerosis, cerebrovascular disorders, psychiatric disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, neurosurgery, pharmacological applications and motor rehabilitation.  This reviewer specifically enjoyed the chapter detailing the fMRI applications in neurosurgery as it provides an excellent example of how fMRI can be integrated into an already complicated process to improve the outcome of the procedure.  Part IV is a short section which provides a brief insight into the future of fMRI focusing on integrating the data with structural MRI techniques and fMRI of the spinal cord.

This book was created in a well thought out manner with a straightforward and intuitive organizational structure, well referenced chapters and with high quality figures.  The chapters within each section were appropriately selected to facilitate the reader’s comprehension of these complex topics.  As a whole the text is very accurate, but not all chapters are created equal with an occasional poor choice in wording or emphasis which may confuse readers.  The references for most chapters are both current and comprehensive, which is helpful as many readers will require supplemental details on a topic or desire information on specific methodologies for particular applications.  One exception to this is chapter 1 titled “Principles of MRI and Functional MRI” which is very poorly referenced with very few articles from recent years.  The quality of the figures and their associated captions and legends vary from chapter to chapter but overall are of high quality and are descriptive as well as relevant with few errors.  The index is also sufficient and is at times quite useful.  One complaint is that Part I is missing a chapter detailing the haemodynamic response to neuronal activation and its effect upon the BOLD fMRI signal.  This topic is discussed in several chapters and the different properties governing the haemodynamic response are covered, but more attention is deserved and a dedicated chapter covering these topics would be warranted.

This book provides a quality resource for scientists, engineers and clinicians who are interested in performing fMRI experiments by describing the fundamentals in an easily digested format as well as presenting detailed descriptions on a large number of applications.  While fMRI currently has a limited role in the clinical environment its utility is being more widely recognized, and its role is likely to expand in the future.  This book will be very useful to the research community, and as fMRI is more heavily utilized as a clinical tool, this book will also be a good addition to a clinician’s library.  This book will impart to the reader how powerful a tool fMRI is in the study of brain function and also impress upon the reader its bright future in the clinical arena; as such it is recommended to anyone interested in carrying out these powerful experiments.

fMRI Techniques and Protcols-book cover

fMRI Techniques and Protocols