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Neuroimage. 2011 Apr 15;55(4):1633-44. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.090. Epub 2011 Jan 9.

Using pulse oximetry to account for high and low frequency physiological artifacts in the BOLD signal.

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Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.


The BOLD signal not only reflects changes in local neural activity, but also exhibits variability from physiological processes like cardiac rhythms and breathing. We investigated how both of these physiological sources are reflected in the pulse oximetry (PO) signal, a direct measure of blood oxygenation, and how this information can be used to account for different types of noise in the BOLD response. Measures of heart rate, respiration and PO were simultaneously recorded while neurologically healthy participants performed an eye-movement task in a 3T MRI. PO exhibited power in frequencies that matched those found in the independently recorded cardiac and respiration signals. Using the phasic and aphasic properties of these signals as nuisance regressors, we found that the different frequency components of the PO signal could be used to identify different types of physiological artifacts in the BOLD response. A comparison of different physiological noise models found that a simple, down-sampled version of the PO signal improves the estimation of task-relevant statistics nearly as well as more established noise models that may run the risk of over-parameterization. These findings suggest that the PO signal captures multiple sources of physiological noise in the BOLD response and provides a simple and efficient way of modeling these noise sources in subsequent analysis.

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