Lowering the thermal noise barrier in functional brain mapping with magnetic resonance imaging

Luca Vizioli*, Steen Moeller, Logan Dowdle, Mehmet Akçakaya, Federico De Martino, Essa Yacoub, Kamil Uğurbil*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has become an indispensable tool for investigating the human brain. However, the inherently poor signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR) of the fMRI measurement represents a major barrier to expanding its spatiotemporal scale as well as its utility and ultimate impact. Here we introduce a denoising technique that selectively suppresses the thermal noise contribution to the fMRI experiment. Using 7-Tesla, high-resolution human brain data, we demonstrate improvements in key metrics of functional mapping (temporal-SNR, the detection and reproducibility of stimulus-induced signal changes, and accuracy of functional maps) while leaving the amplitude of the stimulus-induced signal changes, spatial precision, and functional point-spread-function unaltered. We demonstrate that the method enables the acquisition of ultrahigh resolution (0.5 mm isotropic) functional maps but is also equally beneficial for a large variety of fMRI applications, including supra-millimeter resolution 3- and 7-Tesla data obtained over different cortical regions with different stimulation/task paradigms and acquisition strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5181
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2021

Cite this