In designing a functional imaging experiment or analyzing data, it is typically assumed that task duration and hemodynamic response are linearly related to each other. However, numerous human and animal studies have previously reported a deviation from linearity for short stimulus durations (<4 s). Here, we investigated nonlinearities of blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) signals following visual stimulation of 5 to 1000 ms duration at two different luminance levels in human subjects. It was found that (a) a BOLD response to stimulus durations as short as 5 ms can be reliably detected; this stimulus duration is shorter than employed in any previous study investigating BOLD signal time courses; (b) the responses are more nonlinear than in any other previous study: the BOLD response to 1000 ms stimulation is only twice as large as the BOLD response to 5 ms stimulation although 200 times more photons were projected onto the retina; (c) the degree of nonlinearity depends on stimulus intensity; that is, nonlinearities have to be characterized not only by stimulus duration but also by stimulus features like luminance. These findings are especially of most practical importance in rapid event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experimental designs. In addition, an 'initial dip' response - thought to be generated by a rapid increase in cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen metabolism (CMRO2) relative to cerebral blood flow - was observed and shown to colocalize well with the positive BOLD response. Highly intense stimulation, better tolerated by human subjects for short stimulus durations, causes early CMRO2 increase, and thus, the experimental design utilized in this study is better for detecting the initial dip than standard fMRI designs. These results and those from other groups suggest that short stimulation combined with appropriate experimental designs allows neuronal events and interactions to be examined by BOLD signal analysis, despite its slow evolution.
- Initial dip
- Very short stimuli