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Neuroimage. 2013 Nov 15;82:35-43. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.069. Epub 2013 May 24.

Sensitivity of BOLD response to increasing visual contrast: spin echo versus gradient echo EPI.

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Department of Neuroscience and Imaging, University "G. d'Annunzio" of Chieti, Italy.


Previous evidence showed that spin-echo (SE) BOLD signals offer an increased linearity and promptness with respect to gradient-echo (GE) acquisition, possibly providing a more accurate estimate of the amplitude of neuronal activity. However there is no evidence that the two sequences differ in representing different activation levels due to changes in stimulus intensity. In this study at 3T we compared GE and SE BOLD responses to visual stimuli at increasing contrast levels (5%, 20%, 60%, and 100%). Both sequences showed a monotonic increase of the BOLD response with stimulus contrast. While the larger sensitivity of GE yielded overall larger signal changes, step-wise increase in activation for GE was significant only when comparing 20% with 5% contrast, whereas for SE a significant increase was observed also when comparing 60% with 20% contrast. Moreover, BOLD responses normalized to the lowest contrast showed that relative increases of SE fMRI signal with increasing stimulus strength are larger with respect to the corresponding values of GE signal. This difference was observed also when excluding voxels attributed to large vessels, suggesting a non negligible role of the extravascular contribution to the modulation of SE fMRI signal with stimulus intensity. These results are shown to be in agreement with theoretical predictions that we derived from a recently proposed model of GE and SE functional signals. The present findings suggest that, despite the limited increase in functional localization accuracy at low field, SE fMRI might offer a potential advantage in distinguishing different levels of stimulus-evoked brain activity.


BOLD contrast; Spin-echo; Stimulus intensity; Visual area

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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