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Neuroscientific research involving brain imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has exploded in the past decade. Efforts have been made to incorporate these techniques into scientific curricula, initially at the graduate level and more recently at the advanced undergraduate level. For instance, a number of larger research institutions with in-house fMRI centers have established undergraduate laboratory courses in functional neuroimaging, in which students learn how to design and implement fMRI experiments. To date, however, such courses have not been available to students at smaller institutions that lack MRI scanning facilities. Here I demonstrate the feasibility of implementing such a course at an undergraduate, liberal arts college without internal scanning facilities and with very modest resources. I will discuss an advanced laboratory course in functional MRI that I have recently implemented at Gettysburg College. The course focuses on the use of functional MRI in cognitive neuroscience research, and provides students with the opportunity to learn about the theoretical and technical foundations of fMRI. Lectures cover a variety of topics specific to fMRI, including MR hardware and physics, the physiological basis of the MR signal, data acquisition, fMRI experimental design, and preprocessing and statistical analysis of fMRI data. Laboratory sessions allow students individually to analyze freely available, existing data sets in order to execute the aspects of fMRI data processing and analysis discussed in the lectures. These laboratory sessions are implemented using existing campus computer clusters, requiring only minimal software expenditures. Over the course of the semester, the students also design and implement their own novel fMRI experiment, collecting and analyzing a single pilot data set in each case. The course significantly increases student understanding of neuroscience by providing first-hand experience implementing fMRI, and is the first of its kind to be offered successfully at an undergraduate, liberal arts institution.

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