Detection of subnanotesla oscillatory magnetic fields using MRI

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Direct mapping of neuronal currents using MRI would have fundamental impacts on brain functional imaging. Previous reports indicated that the stimulus-induced rotary saturation (SIRS) mechanism had the best potential of direct detection of neural oscillations; however, it lacked the high-sensitivity level needed. In this study, a novel strategy is proposed in an effort to improve the detection sensitivity.


In our modified SIRS sequence, an external oscillatory magnetic field is used as the excitation pulse in place of the standard 90-degree excitation pulse. This approach could potentially lead to tens or even hundreds times of enhancement in the detection sensitivity for low field signals. It also helps to lower the physiological noise, allows for shorter pulse repetition time, and is less affected by the blood oxygen level.


We demonstrate that a 100-Hz oscillatory magnetic field with magnitude as low as 0.25 nanotesla generated in a current loop can be robustly detected using a 3-Tesla MRI scanner.


The modified SIRS sequence offers higher detection sensitivity as well as several additional advantages. These promising results suggest that the direct detection of neural oscillation might be within the grasp of the current MRI technology. Magn Reson Med 75:519–526, 2016. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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