Evaluating increases in sensitivity from NORDIC for diverse fMRI acquisition strategies

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As the neuroimaging field moves towards detecting smaller effects at higher spatial resolutions, and faster sampling rates, there is increased attention given to the deleterious contribution of unstructured, thermal noise. Here, we critically evaluate the performance of a recently developed reconstruction method, termed NORDIC, for suppressing thermal noise using datasets acquired with various field strengths, voxel sizes, sampling rates, and task designs. Following minimal preprocessing, statistical activation (t-values) of NORDIC processed data was compared to the results obtained with alternative denoising methods. Additionally, we examined the consistency of the estimates of task responses at the single-voxel, single run level, using a finite impulse response (FIR) model. To examine the potential impact on effective image resolution, the overall smoothness of the data processed with different methods was estimated. Finally, to determine if NORDIC alters or removes temporal information important for modeling responses, we employed an exhaustive leave-p-out cross validation approach, using FIR task responses to predict held out timeseries, quantified using R2. After NORDIC, the t-values are increased, an improvement comparable to what could be achieved by 1.5 voxels smoothing, and task events are clearly visible and have less cross-run error. These advantages are achieved with smoothness estimates increasing by less than 4%, while 1.5 voxel smoothing is associated with increases of over 140%. Cross-validated R2s based on the FIR models show that NORDIC is not measurably distorting the temporal structure of the data under this approach and is the best predictor of non-denoised time courses. The results demonstrate that analyzing 1 run of data after NORDIC produces results equivalent to using 2 to 3 original runs and that NORDIC performs equally well across a diverse array of functional imaging protocols. Significance Statement: For functional neuroimaging, the increasing availability of higher field strengths and ever higher spatiotemporal resolutions has led to concomitant increase in concerns about the deleterious effects of thermal noise. Historically this noise source was suppressed using methods that reduce spatial precision such as image blurring or averaging over a large number of trials or sessions, which necessitates large data collection efforts. Here, we critically evaluate the performance of a recently developed reconstruction method, termed NORDIC, which suppresses thermal noise. Across datasets varying in field strength, voxel sizes, sampling rates, and task designs, NORDIC produces substantial gains in data quality. Both conventional t-statistics derived from general linear models and coefficients of determination for predicting unseen data are improved. These gains match or even exceed those associated with 1 voxel Full Width Half Max image smoothing, however, even such small amounts of smoothing are associated with a 52% reduction in estimates of spatial precision, whereas the measurable difference in spatial precision is less than 4% following NORDIC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119949
StatePublished - Apr 15 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Dr. Kendrick Kay for his input. This work was supported by NIH grants: U01 EB025144 (K.U.), P41 EB027061 (K.U.), P30 NS076408 (K.U.) and RF1 MH116978 (E.Y.), and RF1 MH117015 (G.G.)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023

Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) tags

  • IRP

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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