Haptic fMRI: combining functional neuroimaging with haptics for studying the brain's motor control representation

Annu Int Conf IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2013:2013:4137-42. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2013.6610456.


A challenging problem in motor control neuroimaging studies is the inability to perform complex human motor tasks given the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner's disruptive magnetic fields and confined workspace. In this paper, we propose a novel experimental platform that combines Functional MRI (fMRI) neuroimaging, haptic virtual simulation environments, and an fMRI-compatible haptic device for real-time haptic interaction across the scanner workspace (above torso ∼ .65×.40×.20m(3)). We implement this Haptic fMRI platform with a novel haptic device, the Haptic fMRI Interface (HFI), and demonstrate its suitability for motor neuroimaging studies. HFI has three degrees-of-freedom (DOF), uses electromagnetic motors to enable high-fidelity haptic rendering (>350Hz), integrates radio frequency (RF) shields to prevent electromagnetic interference with fMRI (temporal SNR >100), and is kinematically designed to minimize currents induced by the MRI scanner's magnetic field during motor displacement (<2cm). HFI possesses uniform inertial and force transmission properties across the workspace, and has low friction (.05-.30N). HFI's RF noise levels, in addition, are within a 3 Tesla fMRI scanner's baseline noise variation (∼.85±.1%). Finally, HFI is haptically transparent and does not interfere with human motor tasks (tested for .4m reaches). By allowing fMRI experiments involving complex three-dimensional manipulation with haptic interaction, Haptic fMRI enables-for the first time-non-invasive neuroscience experiments involving interactive motor tasks, object manipulation, tactile perception, and visuo-motor integration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Functional Neuroimaging / instrumentation
  • Functional Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Radio Waves
  • Touch Perception / physiology*