This is a multidisciplinary project to create a National Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Data Center, the ultimate goal of which is to help speed the progress in understanding cognitive processes and the neural substrates that underlie them.
Brain imaging is a non-invasive technique that has the potential to distinguish between competing explanations of processes, to locate the neural activity associated with a particular behavior, and to identify some of the causes of human disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD. One particularly promising form of brain imaging is fMRI. However, two significant impediments prevent fMRI's full potential from being realized: the high cost of doing fMRI and the lack of a common data standard.
The objective of the National fMRI Data Center at Dartmouth College is to create an environment that will unleash fMRI's full potential. The Center will achieve this ambitious goal by (a) providing access to a common data set that everyone can use to develop and evaluate methods, confirm hypotheses, and perform meta-analyses, and (b) increasing the number of cognitive neuroscientists that can examine, consider, analyze and assess the brain imaging data that has already been collected and published.
The Center will be built by a multidisciplinary team, with expertise in many fields, including Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology, Mathematics, Computer Science and Medical Physics. The team will create a Web-accessible fMRI database that has data mining capabilities and the means to deliver the requested data to the user (via Web, CD or digital tape), and will coordinate and provide educational resources for all members of the academic and professional communities.
Initially, the Center will receive all data from those researchers whose articles involving imaging are published in Science, Neuron, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, and Journal of Neuroscience. The Center will process the data (e.g., mapping all anatomical and functional images on to a common data space such as the Talairach-Tournoux atlas) and index it. Having data mining capabilities will give researchers an unprecedented opportunity to expand knowledge of the brain. Searches over multiple studies will be possible.
In addition to providing public access to fMRI data, the Center will play an important educational role. Spanning the entire academic spectrum, from neuroimaging courses on the undergraduate and graduate level to a workshop offering professional training to promising young scholars, the Center will help train new generations of neuroimaging scientists.