Functional Brain Imaging Research Program

Functional MRI or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is a type of specialized MRI scan and one of the most recently developed forms of brain imaging. It is based on the same technology as the MRI -- a noninvasive test that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body. Instead of creating images of organs and tissues like MRI, an fMRI looks at blood flow in the brain to detect areas of activity. These changes in blood flow, which are captured on a computer and shown on the screen, help doctors and researchers understand more about how the brain works.

This neuroimaging technique allows us to detect the specific areas of the brain which are involved in a task, a process, or an emotion. Color changes on the fMRI scans show researchers what specific parts of the brain are being activated while the person in the scanner responds to images, sounds, or performs various tasks. This ability to see not only the structure of the brain, but the function of the brain is a major scientific advancement in medicine.

ADHD fMRI Studies

This research program analyzes the differences in cognitive functioning in those with and without ADHD using fMRI across developmental stages. We are also examining whether nicotine, the psychoactive constituent of tobacco, may have positive effects on cognitive and motor processes involving attention that appear to be impaired in many adolescents and young adults with ADHD.

Contact the Potter Lab at (802) 847-5444 or, for more information about any of these studies.

Cognitive Processes in ADHD: In this study we want to see how the brains of adults with ADHD function differently when asked to do tasks involving behavioral inhibition. To this end we are recruiting 100 non-smoking adults (18-65), 50 with and 50 without ADHD, and asking them to participate in two 2-hour study days in which they will perform a computer task while in the fMRI scanner.

The Effects of Nicotine and Ritalin on the ADHD Brain: The goal of this study is to use functional MRI to examine how nicotine improves impulse control and working memory in young adults (18-25) who either have or do not have ADHD. This study will look at patterns of brain activation associated with nicotine and methylphenidate (Ritalin, a common treatment for ADHD) to help understand how the differences in the brain functioning of people who have ADHD may affect their behavior. We are looking for 24 non-smoking young adults (18-25) who have, and 24 who do not have, ADHD. The volunteers will complete three 6-hour study visits in which they will receive nicotine alone, methylphenidate alone, or placebo and then be asked to perform computer tasks in the fMRI.



  • Vermont Advanced Computing Center
  • UVM MRI Center for Biomedical Imaging

We are most grateful for the enthusiastic participation of our volunteers, without whom none of this research could take place. Read what they have to say about their experience.