Detecting neuronal currents with MRI: A human study


  • Jie Huang

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Radiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
    • Correspondence to: Jie Huang, Ph.D., Department of Radiology, Michigan State University, 846 Service Road, East Lansing, MI 48824. E-mail:

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Recently developed neuronal current magnetic resonance imaging aims to directly detect neuronal currents associated with brain activity, but controversial results have been reported in different studies on human subjects. Although there is no dispute that local neuronal currents produce weak transient magnetic fields that would attenuate local MR signal intensity, there is not yet consensus as to whether this attenuation is detectable with present magnetic resonance imaging techniques. This study investigates the magnitude of neuronal current-induced signal attenuation in human visual cortex.


A temporally well-controlled visual stimulation paradigm with a known neuronal firing pattern in monkey visual cortex provides a means of detecting and testing the magnitude of the neuronal current-induced attenuation in neuronal current magnetic resonance imaging.


Placing a series of acquisition windows to fully cover the entire response duration enables a thorough detection of any detectable MR signal attenuation induced by the stimulus-evoked neuronal currents.


No significant neuronal current-induced MR signal attenuation was observed in the putative V1 in any participated subjects.


The present magnetic resonance imaging technique is not sensitive enough to detect neuronal current-induced MR signal attenuation, and the upper limit of this attenuation was found to be less than 0.07% under the study condition. Magn Reson Med 71:756–762, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.