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Background MR gradient noise and non-auditory BOLD activations: A data-driven perspective


Homola GA, Scheffler,  K
Department High-Field Magnetic Resonance, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Haller, S., Homola GA, Scheffler, K., Beckmann, C., & Bartsch, A. (2009). Background MR gradient noise and non-auditory BOLD activations: A data-driven perspective. Brain Research, 1282, 74-83. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.05.094.

The effect of echoplanar imaging (EPI) acoustic background noise on blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) activations was investigated. Two EPI pulse sequences were compared: (i) conventional EPI with a pulsating sound component of typically 8–10 Hz, which is a potent physiological stimulus, and (ii) the more recently developed continuous-sound EPI, which is perceived as less distractive despite equivalent peak sound pressure levels. Sixteen healthy subjects performed an established demanding visual n-back working memory task. Using an exploratory data analysis technique (tensorial probabilistic independent component analysis; tensor-PICA), we studied the inter-session/within-subject response variability introduced by continuous-sound versus conventional EPI acoustic background noise in addition to temporal and spatial signal characteristics. The analysis revealed a task-related component associated with the established higher-level working memory and motor feedback response network, which exhibited a significant 19 increase in its average effect size for the continuous-sound as opposed to conventional EPI. Stimulus-related lower-level activations, such as primary visual areas, were not modified. EPI acoustic background noise influences much more than the auditory system per se. This analysis provides additional evidence for an enhancement of task-related, extra-auditory BOLD activations by continuous-sound EPI due to less distractive acoustic background gradient noise.