HCR.20.005 – Improved measurement of brain activity in patients using MRI

Route: Health care research, sickness prevention and treatment

Cluster question: 104 How do we develop minimally invasive techniques and interventions for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment?

Functional MRI is commonly used in medical diagnosis and treatment planning. With this technique we can determine the location of functionally active regions of the brain, which can then be spared in a further therapeutic or surgical intervention. This method is widely used but at present does not function well near metallic objects or in regions of the brain located near bone or air-filled cavities, which cause an accelerated decay of the MRI signal. We have recently developed a novel technique for measuring brain activation that captures the MRI signal much earlier, but still retains the information on functional activity. We have started to use this for scientific research in the domain of cognitive neuroimaging, but would now like to work with clinicians to transfer this into the clinic.
The new technique is called ‘arterial blood contrast’ ABC, and rather than relying on changes in the amount of deoxyhemoglobin to generate signal changes related to brain activity, it utilises the increase in blood volume that occurs upon activation. This gives a more precise localisation to the underlying neuronal activity.
Potential applications of this technique include, but are not limited to: improved treatment planning prior to surgery, for example in tumour resection or treatment of epilepsy; investigating responses in regions of the brain that are difficult to access using current techniques, like activation in the olfactory bulb, which is now a topic of active research as a result of covid-19; and evaluation of the brain’s response to psycho-pharmaceutical drugs. This novel method promises to improve both the quality of diagnosis and the effectiveness of therapeutic intervention.


Diagnosis, functional magnetic resonance imaging, treatment planning

Other organisations

Erasmus Medical Center (EMC)


Organisation Radboud University, Donders Institute (RU)
Name Prof.dr. D.G. (David) Norris
E-mail david.norris@donders.ru.nl
Website https://www.ru.nl/english/people/norris-d/