fMRi Center

The fMRI Centre was created in June 2000 as a platform for functional cerebral imaging supporting the local and national scientific and clinical community in the fields of fundamental and clinical neuroscience and cognitive psychology. The Centre also collaborates with several research institutes in France and abroad as well as with industry. Our expertise is the cerebral Magnetic Resonance Imaging techniques, with different modalities : • Anatomic MRI for detailed anatomical analysis of individual subjects/patients • Functional MRI for qualitative and quantitative analysis of cerebral activity during rest or performance of different tasks • Diffusion MRI for white matter fibre tracking. We give support at three levels : design conception and implementation, data acquisitions and image processing and statistical analyses.

Since the 1st of January 2012, the fMRI Centre, located in the Timone Hospital (264 rue Saint-Pierre, Sous-sol IGH, 13005 Marseilles), is administratively attached to the Timone Neuroscience Institute (INT, UMR 7289, CNRS - Aix Marseille Université) for the next six years. The functioning and management framework, defined in a convention signed by the institutions CNRS, AMU and AP-HM, rely on a management committee, a users’ group, a board of trustees, and a scientific council.

The fMRI Centre is run by three CNRS research-engineers (Muriel Roth, Bruno Nazarian, Jean-Luc Anton) and is possesses high level technical equipment : • A high field MRI scanner (Bruker MEDSPEC 30/80 AVANCE 3T) equipped with different systems of radio-frequency coils and a powerful gradient system • Comprehensive and high performance stimulation and response recording apparatus, MR-compatible and real-time synchronized with the MRI data acquisition :
- visual, auditory, tactile, proprioceptive, electrical and olfactory stimulations
- behavioural responses : response pads and buttons, ergonomic keyboards, joystick, trackball, potentiometers, force sensitive resistors, graphic tablet, microphones, eye-tracking, computer keyboard
- physiological responses : respiratory and cardiac frequencies, Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), pupil dilatation, Electro-MyoGraphy (EMG)
- Electro-Encephalo-Graphy (EEG) recording system, 32 electrodes, MR-compatible • Furthermore, a dedicated room equipped with a Faraday cage and a duplicate of the MRI stimulation/response recording apparatus allows high quality recordings of EEG, behavioural and physiological data.

In a tight collaboration with the research teams, the fMRI centre team strives to optimize the technological and methodological resources to the researchers’ specific needs. Since 2002, the fMRI centre has supported scientific projects from local and national teams in fundamental, clinical and methodological research fields, yielding more than 100 publications, and hosting more than 40 PhD students.

The platform is also deeply involved in methodological research and technical development through collaboration with local, national and international research groups. Here are some current projects : • Procedures for MR acquisition pipeline validation and MR data quality control • Acquisition of high angle resolution MR-diffusion data, coupled with anatomical and resting-state functional images, in order to define structural invariants of the human brain (ANR BrainMorph, with O. Coulon from LSIS, C. Poupon and J.F. Mangin from Neurospin). • Acquisition of high spatial resolution functional data allowing multi-voxels pattern analysis. Collaboration with S. Takerkart (INT) and D. Schön (INS). • Collaboration with C. Bénar (INS) and I. Vanzetta (INT) : multi-modal neuro-imagery project aiming to quantify coupling between different cerebral functional signals recorded in human : hemodynamical (fMRI), electro-physiological (EEG, MEG), and physiological ones. For each acquisition modality, is set up the same visual parametric design which has been tested in many non-human primate electrophysiologic and optic imaging recordings studies. • Collaboration with the Mechanics and Acoustics Laboratory (LMA) in order to develop a MR-compatible Active Noise Cancelling system. The aim is to reduce the scanner noise at the subject ear level by sending a similar audio signal of opposite phase.

In addition to these research activities, the fMRI centre also maintains a high involvement in education and training of the researchers and students in the neuro-imagery field which rapidly develops and is at the interface between many different competence domains : MR physics, acquisition and processing of the data (MR anatomical, functional and diffusion images, and various signals). Therefore, the fMRI centre is actively involved in the national network for neuro-imaging education and training (Journées Inter-Régionales de Formation en Neuro-Imagerie : JIRFNI. See : and has organised many theoretical and practical training workshops.

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