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Module PPP-4023:
Adv. Neuroimaging Concepts

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Giovanni d'Avossa

Overall aims and purpose

This course provides an extensive overview of mainly MR based imaging techniques used to study the structure, connectivity and metabolism of the brain. Basic anatomic and physiological concepts pertinent to the understanding of these techniques are also introduced, such as the physiological principles underlining the measurement and regulation of cerebral blood flow and neural metabolism. Several techniques are overviewed and their respective value and limitations highlighted though discussion of seminal papers. These are presented in a Journal Club format by both faculty and students. Given that most of these techniques find application in the detection and characterisation of pathological changes in the brain, applications to the study of disease processes is also emphasised, although the emphasis is on imaging applications in basic Cognitive Neuroscience. The ethical implications that are raised by modern neuroimaging techniques and findings will also be discussed when pertinent.

Course content

  1. Neurophysiological basal of the BOLD signal.

  2. Functional connectivity. Neuro-physiological correlates of slow BOLD fluctuations and spatial BOLD coherence. Analysis of BOLD coherence: correlation and independent components analysis. Pre-processing issues. Effective connectivity, theoretical underpinnings and analytical limitations. Ethical considerations of the possibility o detect psychiatric diseases due to early changes in connectivity are raised.

  3. Structural Imaging. T1 and T2 contrast and the use of multi-spectral imaging for tissue classification. Image data representation, e.g. volumetric vs. surface based. Assessing severity and extension of lesions. Assessing disease processes.

  4. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). Physical principles. Grey and white matter diffusion characteristics. Application of DTI to estimation of Wallerian degeneration, white matter injury, fibre tracking.

  5. Perfusion imaging. Overview of non-MR based techniques for estimation of cerebral blood flow. MR perfusion: contrast based vs. non-contrast based estimation of local cerebral blood flood.

  6. Spectroscopy. Physical principles. Basic biochemistry of cerebral metabolism. Applications of spectroscopy to the study of metabolic disorders. Principles of analysis and technical limitations.

  7. MRI for medical discovery. Establishing MR correlates of disease processes. Voxel Based Morphometry. Multivariate techniques.

  8. Ethical implications regarding incidental findings, and possible impact of advanced techniques are introduced and discussed. Discussion will include the ethical implications that arise from the ability to map brain pathways, patterns and metrics of neural connectedness and how these measures may be used in diagnosis, the potential for incidental findings of clinical importance in research participants and how to deal with these findings, and the wider implications of neuroimaging findings and how it may be applied in the wider community.

Assessment Criteria


Links to A grades Comprehensive knowledge • Detailed understanding of the subject area • Extensive background study • Highly focused answer & well-structured • Logically presented & defended arguments • No factual/computa3onal errors • Original interpreta3on • New links to topic are presented • New approach to a problem • Excellent presenta3on with very accurate communica3on


Links to B grades Strong Knowledge • Understands most but not all of subject area • Evidence of background study • Focused answer with good structure • Arguments presented coherently • Mostly free of factual/computational errors • Some limited original interpretation • Well known links described between topics • Problems addressed by existing methods/approaches • Good presentation, accurate communication


Links to C grades • Knowledge of key areas/principles only • Limited evidence of background study • Answer only poorly focused on question & with some irrelevant material & poor structure • Attempts to present relevant and coherent arguments • Has several factual/computational errors • No original interpretation • Only major links between topic are described • Limited problem solving • Many weaknesses in presentation & accuracy

Learning outcomes

  1. 1) Knowledge of imaging relevant aspects of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neuropathology. This should include ability to properly name and identify major landmarks on the cortical surface, i.e. sulci and gyri, and subcortical structures and understand their broad functional significance and connectivity. Students should also be able to explain basic concepts pertaining to the transmission of neural impulse and the synaptic organisation in the CNS. The student should also become familiar with how to asses major alteration in brain structure and function due to disease.

  2. 3) Ability to choose proper analytic tool to determine MR correlates of disease markers.

  3. 4) Develop an understanding of how imaging protocols and techniques can be used to study a specific cognitive, physiological or disease process. Be able to understand the limitations of functional brain signals and how experimental design need to be tailored to their temporal and spatial characteristics. Understand the ability of different techniques (e.g. block vs rapid event related design, repetition suppression and multivariate approaches) to reveal different aspect of the neural organisation of processes in the human brain.

  4. 5) Ability to understand and summarise scientific findings reported in the peer-reviewed literature. In particular, how are figures and tables used to illustrate the findings reported by a study. How are statistical test used to support conclusion drawn by the study's authors.

  5. 2) Understanding the physical principles underlying structural, functional and metabolic MRI. This ideas should be supported by a proper appreciation of how a number of other physiological techniques have helped understand the relation between functional signals and neural activity and how physiological modifiers (e.g. hypoxia, hypercarbia, inflammation) may alter the relation between functional signals and neural activity.

  6. 6) Critical appraisal of scientific findings. Can the student understand the value of a particular piece of research, its implications for our understanding of brain function. What questions are raised by the study and should be answered? is the interpreatation of the findings in this study crucially dependent on assumptions that have not been fully verified?

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Participation in Class 10
Weekly presentation 30
Final exam 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy


weekly Lecture/Seminar

Student lead journal club - Seminar. In these sessions, which represent most of the class periods, students present two papers to the rest of the class. The instructors in attendance frequently interject with questions and comments aimed mainly at the rest of the class. Frequently students are not aware of background information crucial for understanding the paper. This information is discussed by the instructors in some detail. The papers provide most of the topics which studnets need to demonstrate knowledge of in the final exam.

Private study

We expect that each paper will require two hours of careful reading. Additionally, the students will need about 8 hours to prepare a presentation (x2). The review of the class in preparation of the final exam should take between 20 to 30 hours.


Two lectures are delivers by the instructors. The first one deals with the physiological basis of functional imaging signals and is mainly centered on reviewing fundamental concept concerning the metabolic demands associated with neural function and how these costs are met by the brain. Moreover, the regulation of cerebral blood flow and its coupling to neural activity is discussed. Ideas from vascular and synaptic physiology including neuropharmacology are also outlined. In the second lecture the biochemical basis of Magnetic Resonance Imaging are introduced as well as the physical principles used to characterise the molecular structures of biological matter. The remaining sessions are run using a journal club format. In each class two papers are presented by the students. The papers are chosen as they represent seminal contributions to the field of neuro-imaging. These session are attended by the two instructors, additionally members of the Bangor School of Psychology with expertise in neuroimaging will attend those sessions where papers are presented pertinent to their own field of research. Faculty members and students will engage in critical appraisal of the data presented to foster a mentality of skeptical enquiry.

One-to-one supervision

Each student will be individually supervised in preparing their in-class presentation. An hour is devoted to a meeting with the student two days before the presentation is to be delivered. In that meeting the instructor ascertains the degree of understanding of the paper on the part of the student and provides explanations necessary to bring the student's understanding to the level required to give a clear presentation. The instructor also provides guidance and advice on the layout and content of the presentation.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Understand the scientific underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.
  • Apply multiple perspectives to psychological issues and integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in psychology.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in oral form.
  • Be computer literate for the purpose of processing and disseminating psychological data and information.
  • Retrieve and organise information effectively.
  • Handle primary source material critically.
  • Use effectively personal planning and project management skills.
  • Work effectively under pressure (time pressure, limited resources, etc) as independent and pragmatic learners.
  • Reason scientifically and demonstrate the relationship between theory and evidence.
  • Understand and investigate the role of brain function in all human behaviour and experience.
  • Comprehend and use psychological data effectively, demonstrating a systematic knowledge of the application and limitations of various research paradigms and techniques.
  • Employ evidence-based reasoning and examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues associated with the use of different methodologies, paradigms and methods of analysis in psychology.
  • Be aware of ethical principles and approval procedures.


Reading list

  1. Logothetis, Nikos K., et al. "Neurophysiological investigation of the basis of the fMRI signal." Nature 412.6843 (2001): 150.
  2. Logothetis, Nikos K., et al. "Hippocampal–cortical interaction during periods of subcortical silence." Nature 491.7425 (2012): 547.
  3. Conner, Christopher R., et al. "Variability of the relationship between electrophysiology and BOLD-fMRI across cortical regions in humans." Journal of Neuroscience 31.36 (2011): 12855-12865.

  4. Mintun, Mark A., et al. "Blood flow and oxygen delivery to human brain during functional activity: theoretical modeling and experimental data." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98.12 (2001): 6859-6864.

  5. Vaishnavi, S. Neil, et al. "Regional aerobic glycolysis in the human brain." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.41 (2010): 17757-17762.

  6. Fox, Michael D., et al. "The human brain is intrinsically organized into dynamic, anticorrelated functional networks." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102.27 (2005): 9673-9678.

  7. Mantini, Dante, et al. "Electrophysiological signatures of resting state networks in the human brain." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104.32 (2007): 13170-13175.

  8. Diana, Rachel A., Andrew P. Yonelinas, and Charan Ranganath. "High‐resolution multi‐voxel pattern analysis of category selectivity in the medial temporal lobes." Hippocampus 18.6 (2008): 536-541.

  9. Haxby, James V., et al. "Distributed and overlapping representations of faces and objects in ventral temporal cortex." Science 293.5539 (2001): 2425-2430.

  10. Buckner, Randy L., et al. "Molecular, structural, and functional characterization of Alzheimer's disease: evidence for a relationship between default activity, amyloid, and memory." Journal of Neuroscience 25.34 (2005): 7709-7717.

  11. Brier, Mathew R., et al. "Loss of intranetwork and internetwork resting state functional connections with Alzheimer's disease progression." Journal of Neuroscience 32.26 (2012): 8890-8899.

  12. Song, Chen, et al. "Human occipital and parietal GABA selectively influence visual perception of orientation and size." Journal of Neuroscience (2017): 3945-16.

  13. Yazdani, Partow, et al. "Assessment of epilepsy using noninvasive visual psychophysics tests of surround suppression." Physiological reports 5.5 (2017).

  14. Birur, Badari, et al. "Brain structure, function, and neurochemistry in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder—a systematic review of the magnetic resonance neuroimaging literature." npj Schizophrenia 3.1 (2017): 15.

  15. Harari, Julia H., et al. "The association between gene variants and longitudinal structural brain changes in psychosis: a systematic review of longitudinal neuroimaging genetics studies." NPJ schizophrenia 3.1 (2017): 40.

  16. Mori, Susumu, and Jiangyang Zhang. "Principles of diffusion tensor imaging and its applications to basic neuroscience research." Neuron 51.5 (2006): 527-539.

  17. De Schotten, Michel Thiebaut, et al. "A lateralized brain network for visuospatial attention." Nature neuroscience 14.10 (2011): 1245.


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: