By understanding more about the BOLD signal that underlies functional MRI signal, we develop new techniques to quantify multiple aspects of brain physiology.
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The revolution of imaging the function of the brain using MRI, rather than just its structure, was kickstarted by the discovery of the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) effect more than twenty five years ago. However, the BOLD functional MRI (fMRI) signal is a complex mixture of changes in blood flow, blood volume and oxygen metabolism, as well as baseline resting physiology. Therefore, whilst BOLD functional MRI (fMRI) has enabled great improvements in our knowledge about the localisation of function it remains a qualitative measure of brain activity. The fMRI physiology group was founded to investigate this complexity, derive mathematical models to explain it and use this knowledge to develop new quantitative imaging tools. More recently the group has concentrated on applying this knowledge of the BOLD signal to the development of imaging methods to measure under served aspects of brain physiology. This includes mapping baseline oxygen metabolism, cerebrovascular reactivity and venous blood volume.
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This research is conducted as part of the Physics Group at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging.
Below: Caitlin O'Brien explains her research in measuring blood oxygenation.