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

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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 (US)
Article number5181
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 30 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Prof. Kendrick Kay, University of Minnesota, for helpful discussion and comments. This work was supported by NIH grants U01EB025144 (K.U.), P41 EB027061 (K.U.), P30 NS076408 (K.U.) and RF1 MH116978 (E.Y.), and RF1 MH117015 (Geoffrey Ghose, University of Minnesota), and NSF grant CAREER CCF-1651825 (M.A.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


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