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Neuroimage. 2006 Nov 1;33(2):493-504. Epub 2006 Sep 7.

Optimal EPI parameters for reduction of susceptibility-induced BOLD sensitivity losses: a whole-brain analysis at 3 T and 1.5 T.

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Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, WC1N 3BG, UK.


Most functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies record the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal using fast gradient-echo echo-planar imaging (GE EPI). However, GE EPI can suffer from substantial signal dropout caused by inhomogeneities in the static magnetic field. These field inhomogeneities occur near air/tissue interfaces, because they are generated by variations in magnetic susceptibilities. Thus, fMRI studies are often limited by a reduced BOLD sensitivity (BS) in inferior brain regions. Recently, a method has been developed which allows for optimizing the BS in dropout regions by specifically adjusting the slice tilt, the direction of the phase-encoding (PE), and the z-shim moment. However, optimal imaging parameters were only reported for the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and inferior temporal lobes. The present study determines the optimal slice tilt, PE direction, and z-shim moment at 3 T and 1.5 T, otherwise using standard fMRI acquisition parameters. Results are reported for all brain regions, yielding a whole-brain atlas of optimal parameters. At both field strengths, optimal parameters increase the BS by more than 60% in many voxels in the OFC and by at least 30% in the other dropout regions. BS gains are shown to be more widespread at 3 T, suggesting an increased benefit from the dropout compensation at higher fields. Even the mean BS of a large brain region, e.g., encompassing the medial OFC, can be increased by more than 15%. The maps of optimal parameters allow for assessing the feasibility and improving fMRI of brain regions affected by susceptibility-induced BS losses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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