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B. Functional MRIs May Benefit from Vision Science Research

Narrator: This is Science Today. New findings by vision scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, may significantly improve the resolution of brain scans from functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. Jeffrey Thompson, a vision science graduate student who led the study, says fMRI's generally focus on an increase in blood flow in various parts of the brain on a relatively large scale.

Thompson: So what we did was we measured oxygen levels in the tissue in a very localized spot in the brain and also the same time, we were able to measure the actual neural activity that's going on in that area.

Narrator: The researchers found that an initial dip in oxygen levels at a micrometer scale is an earlier, more precise signal of nerve cell activity than the current measure of blood flow on a millimeter scale.

Thompson: What we hope it implies is that if we zero in on this initial dip in oxygen with the fMRI, that we could basically increase the spatial resolution of fMRI, which would have implications for examining neural circuits at a much finer scale than what we are currently able to do.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.