The study of the functional response of the motor cortex during the programming, execution and mental representation of voluntary movements is of great relevance; given the high integration of the visuo-motor, sensory feedback and proprioceptive systems, it is important to be able to evaluate it in conditions that closely approximate the real.
fMRI is today the most effective mean for the investigation of brain functions “in vivo” but the constriction of the subject to a supine position in a restricted volume limits the scope of the experiments and challenges the reliability of the observed data.
The development of an “open” fMRI scanner, in which the subject can maintain a natural position and have visual and motor access to the environment, is an ambitious project that is being actively pursued and whose main challenge resides in the design of the magnet.
The goal is the development of an "open" fMRI scanner capable of recording functional data from subjects maintaining an erect stance (at least for the trunk), and with sufficient limb freedom to afford the execution of simple motor tasks. The main effort in this activity is devoted to the finalization of the project the magnet.
A relevant part of the project deals with the optimization of the structure, to make it easier to transfer to cost sensitive applications such as conventional clinical imaging; another significant area is represented by the field compensation techniques that will merge with the design of the gradient coils.