As psychiatry has moved more and more to a biological specialty and emotion and memory tracts are mapped, it has become essential that imaging of the human brain be part of that process. The great leaps in physics of the late 20th and early 21st centuries have brought imaging techniques to medicine that could not have been imagined just a few years prior. It is now possible to not only view the brain on X-ray in its static state, but to also image the brain as it performs a task. The scientist can image changes in the brain as a subject thinks a thought or feels an emotion. One such imaging technique is that of functional MRI (fMRI). Many practicing psychiatrists were not educated in the use of imaging techniques as part of their psychiatric training. Thus, there is a great need for texts that can balance teaching new imaging techniques to new students/graduate students with the needs of the physician in practice. Huettel et al. have presented an excellent product that achieves that balance. The text begins with a basic introduction to imaging and then walks the reader/learner through concepts step-by-step until very complex tasks and ideas have been mastered.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging is divided into 15 chapters with a detailed preface that sets the structure for the learner from the beginning. The layout is extremely well done with many successful educational techniques that are often missing from medical textbooks. These educational strategies include key topic boxes, more than 300 color illustrations, bolding of important terms associated with short definitions in the margins, inclusion of thought questions to stimulate discussion, and self-assessment questions in colored boxes. Provided with each copy of the book is a CD-ROM that contains practice data sets, questions, with great tools. An instructor’s resource CD is also available containing slides and copies of the figures from the text. The authors of this book were clearly providing materials to encourage the learner to succeed.
The first chapter provides a brief overview of techniques for studying brain function, an account of the development of MRI, and a preview of the remaining chapters. Chapters 2—5 focus on the fundamentals of acquiring an MRI including the equipment required, safety considerations, how the signal is generated, creation of the image, and the various pulse sequences. Chapters 6 and 7 cover the basic physiology that links changes in neuronal activity to changes in local blood flow and the deoxyhemoglobin content of blood, the physiological foundation of fMRI. Chapters 8—12 present the fundamentals of fMRI, including the spatial and temporal properties, sources of noise and methods for improving signal-to-noise, preprocessing methods to reduce variability in the data, experimental design, and statistical analysis of the data. Chapters 13 and 14 discuss areas in which fMRI has proven its usefulness and the advances in technique that are likely to provide improvements for the future. In the final chapter the various methods for studying brain function are presented in the context of cognitive neuroscience research and the value of utilizing other methods in conjunction with fMRI is discussed.
A major value of this excellent book is the clear presentation of both strengths and limitations of the techniques and experimental approaches that are discussed. The extensive use of well-designed color illustrations and the excellent information design make this difficult subject area accessible and stimulating to the learner. The student CD is very impressive. It again followed the layout and design of the textbook with easy-to-use tabs and links. The exercises allow students the necessary hands-on experience to become familiar with the challenges of fMRI analysis. In summary, this is a great textbook and learning tool for those who want a thorough grounding in order to conduct fMRI research.
Dr. Hurley is affiliated with ACOS-Mental Health, Salisbury VAMC, VISN 6 MIRECC. Dr. Hurley is also Associate Professor, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor, Baylor College of Medicine.Dr. Taber is Research Health Scientist, Salisbury VAMC and VISN 6 MIRECC.