PublicationsThe potential of MR-Encephalography for BCI/Neurofeedback applications with high temporal resolution
Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rt-fMRI) enables the update of various brain-activity measures during an ongoing experiment as soon as a new brain volume is acquired. However, the recorded Blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal also contains physiological artifacts such as breathing and heartbeat, which potentially cause misleading false positive effects especially problematic in brain-computer interface (BCI) and neurofeedback (NF) setups. The low temporal resolution of echo planar imaging (EPI) sequences (which is in the range of seconds) prevents a proper separation of these artifacts from the BOLD signal. MR-Encephalography (MREG) has been shown to provide the high temporal resolution required to unalias and correct for physiological fluctuations and leads to increased specificity and sensitivity for mapping task-based activation and functional connectivity as well as for detecting dynamic changes in connectivity over time. By comparing a simultaneous multislice echo planar imaging (SMS-EPI) sequence and an MREG sequence using the same nominal spatial resolution in an offline analysis for three different experimental fMRI paradigms (perception of house and face stimuli, motor imagery, Stroop task), the potential of this novel technique for future BCI and NF applications was investigated. First, adapted general linear model pre-whitening which accounts for the high temporal resolution in MREG was implemented to calculate proper statistical results and be able to compare these with the SMS-EPI sequence. Furthermore, the respiration- and cardiac pulsation-related signals were successfully separated from the MREG signal using independent component analysis which were then included as regressors for a GLM analysis. Only the MREG sequence allowed to clearly separate cardiac pulsation and respiration components from the signal time course. It could be shown that these components highly correlate with the recorded respiration and cardiac pulsation signals using a respiratory belt and fingertip pulse plethysmograph. Temporal signal-to-noise ratios of SMS-EPI and MREG were comparable. Functional connectivity analysis using partial correlation showed a reduced standard error in MREG compared to SMS-EPI. Also, direct time course comparisons by down-sampling the MREG signal to the SMS-EPI temporal resolution showed lower variance in MREG. In general, we show that the higher temporal resolution is beneficial for fMRI time course modeling and this aspect can be exploited in offline application but also, is especially attractive, for real-time BCI and NF applications.