Difference between MRI and FMRI

MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is used in medicine for generating images that help with understanding the structure of the human brain, among other things. MRI is an indispensable technique when it comes to understanding abnormalities in the human brain. FMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, on the other hand, is one of the pinnacles of the whole magnetic resonance imaging technology. FMRI is designed and used for creating the image of the brain focusing on its metabolic function. FMRI may be called a “sister technique” in relation to MRI. However, there are several differences in the two technologies and we will take a closer look at them.


Image created via MRI technology

MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is the technique widely used in modern medicine to diagnose soft tissues of the human body. The most important application of MRI is the investigation of the human brain. MRI is indispensable when it comes to diagnosis of abnormalities developing in the human brain.

Image created via FMRI technology

FMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, is the technique which utilizes magnetic fields to create the image of what is going inside the human brain. The focus of FMRI is on the processes in the human brain as they will develop in time.

Comparison chart

Focused on anatomical structure Focused on metabolic processes
Shows processes as they happen in space Shows processes as they happen in time
Being widely used Being used sparingly


What is the difference between MRI and FMRI? Let’s compare them by their application, the specifics of processes captured and in terms of how often both procedures are used in modern medicine.

  • MRI is designed for revealing the peculiarities of anatomical structure inside a human organism, including those in the human brain. On the other hand, FMRI maps the image via measuring the blood flow levels in the human brain. The data captured with the FMRI  shows changes in the metabolic functioning in the brain.
  • Due to the different ways of measuring processes in the human brain, MRI and FMRI differ in terms of the resulting picture. MRI measures the molecule called hydrogen nuclei. The captured data allows MRI to create a spatial image of the finest resolution of the human brain. FMRI measures oxygen levels flowing into the brain and calculates the differences in tissue with respect to time.
  • MRI technique has established a solid reputation in modern medicine. It is widely used in various fields of medicine as well as in medical studies. FMRI, on the other hand, is a relatively recent technique and is only beginning to gain popularity.