Positron-emission tomography (PET) can localize functions of the human brain by imaging regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) during voluntary behaviour. Functional brain mapping with PET, however, has been hindered by PET's poor spatial resolution (typically >1 cm). We have developed an image-analysis strategy that can map functional zones not resolved by conventional PET images. Brain areas selectively activated by a behavioural task can be isolated by subtracting a paired control-state image from the task-state image, thereby removing areas not recruited by the task. When imaged in isolation the centre of an activated area can be located very precisely. This allows subtle shifts in response locale due to changes in task to be detected readily despite poor spatial resolution. As an initial application of this strategy we mapped the retinal projection topography of human primary visual cortex. Functional zones separated by less than 3 mm (centre-to-centre) were differentiated using PET CBF images with a spatial resolution of 18 mm. This technique is not limited to a particular brain area or type of behaviour but does require that the increase in CBF produced by the task be both intense and focal.
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