Twenty years of functional MRI: the science and the stories

Neuroimage. 2012 Aug 15;62(2):575-88. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.04.026. Epub 2012 Apr 20.


Since its inception over twenty years ago, the field of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has grown in usage, sophistication, range of applications, and impact. After twenty years, it's useful to briefly look back as well as forward - to size up just how far we have come and speculate just how far we may go. This is an introduction to the special issue of "Twenty years of fMRI: the science and the stories." The one-hundred and three papers in this special issue highlight the major methodological developments and controversies of fMRI from a first person perspective over the past twenty years. The growth of this field is not just fascinating from a science and technology perspective, but also from a human perspective. Most who were fortunate enough to be part of this effort at the beginning, as well as those who jumped in along the way have their fair share of interesting stories consisting of top rate science as well as intense thought and effort, good or bad fortune, and some claim to a contribution. These stories are in the following papers, written by the current leaders in the field and the innovators throughout the twenty year history. The categories, designed to cover every aspect of the emergence and development of fMRI, include: pre-fMRI; the first BOLD brain activation results; developments in pulse sequences, imaging methods, and hardware for fMRI; methodological developments, issues, and mechanisms; new paradigm designs; education; and the future. Within this issue, we have a collage of overlapping, complementary, yet sometimes contradictory accounts of what happened during the breathtakingly diverse and intense development of this still growing field over the past twenty years.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping / history*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Brain*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / history*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods