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Neuroimage. 2014 Jan 15;85 Pt 3:1040-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.10.026. Epub 2012 Oct 23.

Imaging artifacts induced by electrical stimulation during conventional fMRI of the brain.

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Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Georg-August University, 37075 Göttingen, Germany. Electronic address:


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of brain activation during transcranial electrical stimulation is used to provide insight into the mechanisms of neuromodulation and targeting of particular brain structures. However, the passage of current through the body may interfere with the concurrent detection of blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal, which is sensitive to local magnetic fields. To test whether these currents can affect concurrent fMRI recordings we performed conventional gradient echo-planar imaging (EPI) during transcranial direct current (tDCS) and alternating current stimulation (tACS) on two post-mortem subjects. tDCS induced signals in both superficial and deep structures. The signal was specific to the electrode montage, with the strongest signal near cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and scalp. The direction of change relative to non-stimulation reversed with tDCS stimulation polarity. For tACS there was no net effect of the MRI signal. High-resolution individualized modeling of current flow and induced static magnetic fields suggested a strong coincidence of the change EPI signal with regions of large current density and magnetic fields. These initial results indicate that (1) fMRI studies of tDCS must consider this potentially confounding interference from current flow and (2) conventional MRI imaging protocols can be potentially used to measure current flow during transcranial electrical stimulation. The optimization of current measurement and artifact correction techniques, including consideration of the underlying physics, remains to be addressed.


Brain; Modeling; Post-mortem; fMRI; tACS; tDCS

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