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J Neurosci Methods. 2008 Oct 30;175(1):154-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2008.08.013. Epub 2008 Aug 19.

A new concept of a unified parameter management, experiment control, and data analysis in fMRI: application to real-time fMRI at 3T and 7T.

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Department of Medical Informatics, Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany.


In functional MRI (fMRI) complex experiments and applications require increasingly complex parameter handling as the experimental setup usually consists of separated soft- and hardware systems. Advanced real-time applications such as neurofeedback-based training or brain computer interfaces (BCIs) may even require adaptive changes of the paradigms and experimental setup during the measurement. This would be facilitated by an automated management of the overall workflow and a control of the communication between all experimental components. We realized a concept based on an XML software framework called Experiment Description Language (EDL). All parameters relevant for real-time data acquisition, real-time fMRI (rtfMRI) statistical data analysis, stimulus presentation, and activation processing are stored in one central EDL file, and processed during the experiment. A usability study comparing the central EDL parameter management with traditional approaches showed an improvement of the complete experimental handling. Based on this concept, a feasibility study realizing a dynamic rtfMRI-based brain computer interface showed that the developed system in combination with EDL was able to reliably detect and evaluate activation patterns in real-time. The implementation of a centrally controlled communication between the subsystems involved in the rtfMRI experiments reduced potential inconsistencies, and will open new applications for adaptive BCIs.

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