Last update: September 18, 2022
By BrainMatters

Temporal and spatial resolution are two measures to indicate how accurate a device is in measuring the brain. Here temporal resolution is a measure of accuracy in time, and spatial resolution is a measure of accuracy with respect to location.

In brain research, these two measures are used to indicate how well a measuring device can distinguish two processes from each other in time, and how well an instrument can distinguish two areas from each other in space.

Thus, different measurement methods also have different advantages and disadvantages with respect to these two measures. For some studies one is looking for a specific brain area, an instrument with a high spatial resolution must then be chosen. When one wants to know exactly when something happens, one should choose an instrument with a high temporal resolution. By the way, the numbers below show: the lower the number (for example in mm or seconds), the better the resolution. It’s a bit like taking a photo with more pixels or shooting a video with a higher frame rate: this increases the quality of your measurement.

MethodSpatial ResolutionTemporal ResolutionExplanation
CT0,5 – 1 cm*n/a*These methods have no temporal resolution, as they only measure anatomy, not functions.
MRI1 mm*n/a
fMRI0.5-3 mm~10 s 
PET5 – 10 mm~40 s 
TMS2 – 3 cm1 – 5 ms 
EEG1 – 2 cm1 ms 
MEG1 – 2 cm1 ms   

Author: Myrthe Princen (adapted and translated by Melanie Smekal)

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