A new approach to measure single-event related brain activity using real-time fMRI: feasibility of sensory, motor, and higher cognitive tasks

Hum Brain Mapp. 2001 Jan;12(1):25-41. doi: 10.1002/1097-0193(200101)12:1<25::aid-hbm30>3.0.co;2-h.


Real-time fMRI is a rapidly emerging methodology that enables monitoring changes in brain activity during an ongoing experiment. In this article we demonstrate the feasibility of performing single-event sensory, motor, and higher cognitive tasks in real-time on a clinical whole-body scanner. This approach requires sensitivity optimized fMRI methods: Using statistical parametric mapping we quantified the spatial extent of BOLD contrast signal changes as a function of voxel size and demonstrate that sacrificing spatial resolution and readout bandwidth improves the detection of signal changes in real time. Further increases in BOLD contrast sensitivity were obtained by using real-time multi-echo EPI. Real-time image analysis was performed using our previously described Functional Imaging in REal time (FIRE) software package, which features real-time motion compensation, sliding window correlation analysis, and automatic reference vector optimization. This new fMRI methodology was validated using single-block design paradigms of standard visual, motor, and auditory tasks. Further, we demonstrate the sensitivity of this method for online detection of higher cognitive functions during a language task using single-block design paradigms. Finally, we used single-event fMRI to characterize the variability of the hemodynamic impulse response in primary and supplementary motor cortex in consecutive trials using single movements. Real-time fMRI can improve reliability of clinical and research studies and offers new opportunities for studying higher cognitive functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Computer Systems*
  • Female
  • Fingers
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Speech Discrimination Tests
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*