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Impact of acquisition and analysis strategies on cortical depth-dependent fMRI

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Functional MRI at ultra-high magnetic fields (≥ 7T) provides the opportunity to probe columnar and laminar processing in the human brain in vivo at sub-millimeter spatial scales. However, fMRI data only indirectly reflects the neuronal laminar profile due to a bias to ascending and pial veins inherent in gradient- and spin-echo BOLD fMRI. In addition, accurate delineation of the cortical depths is difficult, due to the relatively large voxel sizes and lack of sufficient tissue contrast in the functional images. In conventional depth-dependent fMRI studies, anatomical and functional data are acquired with different image read-out modules, the fMRI data are distortion-corrected and vascular biases are accounted for by subtracting the depth-dependent activation profiles of different stimulus conditions. In this study, using high-resolution gradient-echo fMRI data (0.7 mm isotropic) of the human visual cortex, we propose instead, that depth-dependent functional information is best preserved if data analysis is performed in the original functional data space. To achieve this, we acquired anatomical images with high tissue contrast and similar distortion to the functional images using multiple inversion-recovery time EPI, thereby eliminating the need to un-distort the fMRI data. We demonstrate higher spatial accuracy for the cortical layer definitions of this approach as compared to the more conventional approach using MP2RAGE anatomy. In addition, we provide theoretical arguments and empirical evidence that vascular biases can be better accounted for using division instead of subtraction of the depth-dependent profiles. Finally, we show that the hemodynamic response of grey matter has relatively stronger post-stimulus undershoot than the pial vein voxels. In summary, we show that the choice of fMRI data acquisition and processing can impact observable differences in the cortical depth profiles and present evidence that cortical depth-dependent modulation of the BOLD signal can be resolved using gradient-echo imaging.

    Research areas

  • Ultra-high field, High resolution, Distortion-matched T-1 anatomy, Cortical depth-dependent fMRI, IMAGE DISTORTION CORRECTION, INDUCED SIGNAL CHANGES, CEREBRAL BLOOD-VOLUME, PRIMARY VISUAL-CORTEX, HIGH MAGNETIC-FIELDS, ECHO-PLANAR IMAGES, HIGH-RESOLUTION, HUMAN BRAIN, SPIN-ECHO, FUNCTIONAL MRI, Echo-Planar Imaging/methods, Humans, Male, Visual Cortex/anatomy & histology, Adult, Female, Cerebral Cortex/anatomy & histology, Functional Neuroimaging/methods
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-344
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018