Functional Brain Imaging


Course Objective

The student will learn about the most important brain imaging
techniques, the principles on which they are based and practical
applications in research and patient care.
Quite some emphasis on physics and mathematics will be given during the
lectures. However, the goal is not to examine the students on this
knowledge, but to provide sufficient background to develop a critical
and scientific attitude towards imaging techniques.
The main focus for the students will be to translate this knowledge into
the potential use of techniques in neuroscience.

Course Content

In this course the student will learn about techniques to study
structure and function of the brain that are used in clinical studies
and in neuroscientific research.
Three main approaches can be distinguished: neurophysiological
techniques (EEG, MEG), magnetic resonance techniques (MRI, fMRI, MRS)
and techniques which
involve the use of radio active ligands (SPECT, PET). In addition,
network approaches to describe brain structure and function will be
The background, possibilities and limitations of these techniques will
be discussed in relation to ongoing research at the VU University
Medical Centre and Amsterdam Neuroscience, including Brain imaging
(methodological innovation), Brain mechanisms (childhood white matter
disorders), Neurodegeneration (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's
disease), Neuroinfection & neuroinflammation (Multiple Sclerosis),
Compulsivity, impulsivity & attention (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Teaching Methods

The basic principles and several applications of all techniques will be
presented in a series of lectures scheduled during the first 6 weeks
(typically two or three days a week - the other days are available for
Advanced Clinical Neuroscience).
Attendance at the lectures is required. Small groups will discuss
particular aspects in more detail.
During the course, visits to the departments involved in imaging will be
Hands-on experience of analysis methods is provided in computer

Method of Assessment

Individual written opinion paper / essay (50% of final mark).
Team presentation about a functional brain imaging experiment about a
neurological disorder / neuroscientific problem. (50% of final mark).
Both components have to be awarded a sufficient grade in order to
receive a sufficient final grade.

Entry Requirements

Finished 1st year Master of Neurosciences or finished 1st year Master of
Biomedical Sciences.


Recommended background literature:
- Bullmore E, Sporns O: Complex brain networks: graph theoretical
analysis of structural and functional systems. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009
- Gong G et al: Brain connectivity: gender makes a difference.
Neuroscientist. 2011 Oct;17(5):575-91
- Stam CJ: Characterization of anatomical and functional connectivity in
the brain: a complex networks perspective. Int J Psychophysiol. 2010
- Stam CJ: Modern network science of neurological disorders.
Nat Rev Neurosci. 2014 Oct;15(10):683-95.
- Varela F et al: The brainweb: phase synchronization and large-scale
integration. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2001 Apr;2(4):229-39.
- Griffa A et al: Structural connectomics in brain diseases
NeuroImage 2013:v80 (Oct 15, 2013) 515-526.
- Vidaurre D et al: Brain network dynamics are hierarchically organized
in time.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Nov 28;114(48):12827-12832.
- Devlin H et al: Introduction to fMRI.
- Matthews PM et al: Applications of fMRI in translational medicine and
clinical practice. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2006 Sep;7(9):732-44.
- Lazar M: Mapping brain anatomical connectivity using white matter
tractography. NMR Biomed. 2010 Aug;23(7):821-35.
- Beaulieu C. The basis of anisotropic water diffusion in the nervous
system - a technical review. NMR Biomed. 2002 Nov-Dec;15(7-8):435-55
- Blokland JA et al: Positron emission tomography: a technical
introduction for clinicians. Eur J Radiol. 2002 Oct;44(1):70-5.
- Klunk WE et al: Imaging brain amyloid in Alzheimer's disease with
Pittsburgh Compound-B. Ann Neurol. 2004 Mar;55(3):306-19.
- Lammertsma AA: Radioligand studies: imaging and quantitative analysis.
Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2002 Dec;12(6):513-6.
- Phelps ME: Positron emission tomography provides molecular imaging of
biological processes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Aug 1;97
- Villemagne VL et al: Aβ Imaging: feasible, pertinent, and vital to
progress in Alzheimer's disease.
Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2012 Feb;39(2):209-19.
- Villemagne VL et al: Tau imaging: early progress and future
Lancet Neurol. 2015 Jan;14(1):114-24.
- Finnema SJ et al: Imaging synaptic density in the living human brain.
Sci Transl Med. 2016 Jul 20;8(348):348ra96.
- Baillet S et al: Electromagnetic brain mapping. IEEE Signal Processing
Magazine 2001 Nov;18(6):14-30.
- Hari R, Salmelin R: Human cortical oscillations: a neuromagnetic view
through the skull. Trends Neurosci. 1997 Jan;20(1):44-9.
- Hillebrand A et al: A new approach to neuroimaging with
magnetoencephalography. Hum Brain Mapp. 2005 Jun;25(2):199-211.
- Boto E et al: Moving magnetoencephalography towards real-world
applications with a wearable system.
Nature. 2018 Mar 29;555(7698):657-661.

Target Audience

Students following 2nd year master-track Clinical and Translational
Students with other background, please first contact coordinator.

Additional Information

The maximum number of participants is 25.
This means that students other than the target group should first
contact the coordinator.
Taught in English.
For further information, please contact dr. P.J.W. Pouwels - (Petra) -

Custom Course Registration

Students not enrolled in the VU Master of Neuroscience are required to contact the course coordinator prior to enrollment. The course coordinator determines whether you can participate.

General Information

Course Code AM_470715
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. P.J.W. Pouwels
Examiner dr. P.J.W. Pouwels
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Computer lab, Lecture