Spontaneous brain activity observed with functional magnetic resonance imaging as a potential biomarker in neuropsychiatric disorders

Cogn Neurodyn. 2010 Dec;4(4):275-94. doi: 10.1007/s11571-010-9126-9. Epub 2010 Aug 3.


As functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have yielded increasing amounts of information about the brain's spontaneous activity, they have revealed fMRI's potential to locate changes in brain hemodynamics that are associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. In this paper, we review studies that support the notion that changes in brain spontaneous activity observed by fMRI can be used as potential biomarkers for diagnosis and treatment evaluation in neuropsychiatric disorders. We first review the methods used to study spontaneous activity from the perspectives of (1) the properties of local spontaneous activity, (2) the spatial pattern of spontaneous activity, and (3) the topological properties of brain networks. We also summarize the major findings associated with major neuropsychiatric disorders obtained using these methods. Then we review the pilot studies that have used spontaneous activity to discriminate patients from normal controls. Finally, we discuss current challenges and potential research directions to further elucidate the clinical use of spontaneous brain activity in neuropsychiatric disorders.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Functional connectivity; Low frequency fluctuation; Resting-state fMRI; Schizophrenia.