Can high-field MREIT be used to directly detect neural activity? Theoretical considerations

R. J. Sadleir, S. C. Grant, E. J. Woo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We sought to determine the feasibility of directly studying neural tissue activity by analysis of differential phase shifts in MRI signals that occurred when trickle currents were applied to a bath containing active or resting neural tissue. We developed a finite element bidomain model of an aplysia abdominal ganglion in order to estimate the sensitivity of this contrast mechanism to changes in cell membrane conductance occurring during a gill-withdrawal reflex. We used our model to determine both current density and magnetic potential distributions within a sample chamber containing an isolated ganglion when it was illuminated with current injected synchronously with the MR imaging sequence and predicted the resulting changes in MRI phase images. This study provides the groundwork for attempts to image neural function using Magnetic Resonance Electrical Impedance Tomography (MREIT). We found that phase noise in a candidate 17.6T MRI system should be sufficiently low to detect phase signal differences between active and resting membrane states at resolutions around 1mm3. We further delineate the broad dependencies of signal-to-noise ratio on activity frequency, current application time and active tissue fractions and outline strategies that can be used to lower phase noise below that presently observed in conventional MREIT techniques. We also propose the idea of using MREIT as an alternative means of studying neuromodulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-216
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aplysia
  • Bidomain
  • FMRI
  • Finite element model
  • Hodgkin-Huxley model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Can high-field MREIT be used to directly detect neural activity? Theoretical considerations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this