Functional imaging of the human spinal cord
In this presentation, I will give an overview of non-invasively imaging the human spinal cord with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which is a relatively young field that faces serious technical challenges and is thus only pursued by a few groups. I will start out by describing these challenges and the approaches that have been developed to address them and then move on the investigation of somatosensory (and motor) responses in the spinal cord. Having laid this groundwork, I will focus on two recent trends in spinal fMRI: on the one hand the role that cognitive factors play in shaping responses to noxious stimulation and on the other hand the surprising amount of organization that is contained in intrinsic activity fluctuations. I will conclude with some exciting methodological developments that should allow us get a more mechanistic understanding of spinal cord function in the near future.