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Imaging and Radiology

Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas

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Functional MRI 


Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) uses a strong magnet and other electronic devices to detect brain functioning in a noninvasive way. Patients are instructed to perform simple tasks like tapping fingers or feet (motor tasks), listening to words or sentences (auditory tasks), viewing images (visual tasks) or silently completing sentences (language tasks). Before the scanning, an MR technologist will give a patient instruction on how to perform these tasks. Activated brain areas can be mapped using fMRI software, as the one below showing a finger tapping brain functioning map. Physicians and surgeons use fMRI maps to make treatment and surgery plans.

A Sharper Focus

The Advanced Imaging Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas offers 3T MRI imaging, the highest strength available in a clinical setting.

“The 3T magnet is double the strength of a 1.5T MRI magnet, so it provides quality imaging with high resolution,” says Tianliang Gu, Ph.D., the MRI scientist at the Advanced Imaging Center. Dr. Gu oversees all scientific parameters for the MRI scanners and works with the radiologists who office in the center to ensure the best possible images are achieved for every patient.

More Than Pretty Pictures

From cardiologists to orthopaedic surgeons, many physicians use 3T MRI to get a better look inside their patients. Richard Naftalis, M.D., a neurosurgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Dallas, employs it to help plan brain tumor surgery.

In one recent case, Dr. Naftalis needed to remove a tumor in a critical area deep within the brain, but he had to avoid damaging important fiber tracts, or pathways that connect one area of the brain tissue to another.

Using 3T MRI, a functional MRI (fMRI) was performed. “With functional MRI, we ask the patient to perform a simple task, such as ‘Tap your right index finger,’ and the functional MRI shows us where in the brain the activity is originating,” says Dr. Naftalis. “It lets us know where a patient’s lesion is in reference to crucial structures.”

The fMRI also can be used with diffusion tensor imaging, a sequence of pictures that maps the fiber tracts in the patient’s brain in relation to the tumor’s location. “That allows us to tailor the surgical approach that leads to the best surgical outcome.” The result? The patient’s tumor was successfully removed, with no detrimental neurological side effects.

Better and Faster

The 3T MRI scanner at the Advanced Imaging Center produces more detailed scans, more quickly and with more comfort. This means patients can be in and out faster. It can accommodate patients weighing up to 550 pounds; in addition, the bore of the scanner is a larger diameter than many other models, giving the patient more space during an exam. So, the 3T is beneficial to both the patient and the surgical team. By Deborah Paddison

Got a Magnetic Personality?

Because of its strong magnet, MRI cannot be performed on people who have certain metal implants, including:

  • pacemakers or aneurysm clips
  • cochlear implants
  • orthopaedic implants, such as pins, plates, screws or wire mesh
  • drug infusion pumps

If your physician orders an MRI, discuss this before you undergo the exam.