Functional MRI

You may be referred for a specialist MRI scan that we will carry out or assist with, or might be part of a clinical trial that our service is running.

We are mainly involved in functional MRI. This can produce images of the areas of the brain that are activated when you carry out a specific task. The areas of activation are linked to increased blood flow in those areas of the brain. This is based on images acquired whilst you are carrying out the task, and whilst you are at rest. 

An example is when we are trying to determine the area of the brain related to movement. You would be asked to tap the fingers on one hand for about ten seconds, then stay very still for the next ten seconds, and then tap your fingers again for the ten seconds. We would ask for this pattern to be repeated five time, whilst you are being scanned. It is very important to keep your head as still as possible throughout the whole scan.

You may be asked to do other tasks in the scanner. For example, to locate the areas of the brain related to language, we might use a word generation task.

Other types of scanning our service is involved with are MR spectroscopy, where information about the chemical composition of the brain is obtained from MRI data, and MR perfusion imaging, which looks at blood flow in the brain.

In the future we hope to become much more actively involved in the cardiac MRI service, particularly when the new dedicated cardiac MRI scanner is installed.

Having a functional MRI scan

The whole procedure will be explained fully to you, including what you have to do in the scanner, before you go in. You will be given headphones because the scanning procedure is noisy, which should reduce the noise to a suitable level. You will be told what to do through the intercom system when you are in the scanner. Some standard MR images will also be acquired before the functional imaging study. You don't need to do anything during this time; you just need to lie very still.

Meet the team

Dr Angela Darekar is the head of the functional MRI service. Dr Darekar has many years of experience in MRI, and is involved in many research projects relating to its use.

Contact us

You can email Dr Darekar at angela.darekar@uhs.nhs.uk. Referrals for this service come via radiology.