Temporal stability during an fMRI acquisition is very important because the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) effects of interest are only a few percent in magnitude. Also, studies involving the collection of groups of subjects over time require stable scanner performance over days, weeks, months, and even years. We describe a protocol designed by one of the authors that has been tested for several years within the context of a large, multicenter collaborative fMRI research project (FIRST-BIRN). A full description of the phantom, the quality assurance (QA) protocol, and the several calculations used to measure performance is provided. The results obtained with this protocol at multiple sites over time are presented. These data can be used as benchmarks for other centers involved in fMRI research. Some issues with the various protocol measures are highlighted and discussed, and possible protocol improvements are also suggested. Overall, we expect that other fMRI centers will find this approach to QA useful and this report may facilitate developing a similar QA protocol locally. Based on the findings reported herein, the authors are convinced that monitoring QA in this way will improve the quality of fMRI data.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.