The influence of spatial resolution and smoothing on the detectability of resting-state and task fMRI

Neuroimage. 2014 Feb 1;86:221-30. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.09.001. Epub 2013 Sep 8.


Functional MRI blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal changes can be subtle, motivating the use of imaging parameters and processing strategies that maximize the temporal signal-to-noise ratio (tSNR) and thus the detection power of neuronal activity-induced fluctuations. Previous studies have shown that acquiring data at higher spatial resolutions results in greater percent BOLD signal changes, and furthermore that spatially smoothing higher resolution fMRI data improves tSNR beyond that of data originally acquired at a lower resolution. However, higher resolution images come at the cost of increased acquisition time, and the number of image volumes also influences detectability. The goal of our study is to determine how the detection power of neuronally induced BOLD fluctuations acquired at higher spatial resolutions and then spatially smoothed compares to data acquired at the lower resolutions with the same imaging duration. The number of time points acquired during a given amount of imaging time is a practical consideration given the limited ability of certain populations to lie still in the MRI scanner. We compare acquisitions at three different in-plane spatial resolutions (3.50×3.50mm(2), 2.33×2.33mm(2), 1.75×1.75mm(2)) in terms of their tSNR, contrast-to-noise ratio, and the power to detect both task-related activation and resting-state functional connectivity. The impact of SENSE acceleration, which speeds up acquisition time increasing the number of images collected, is also evaluated. Our results show that after spatially smoothing the data to the same intrinsic resolution, lower resolution acquisitions have a slightly higher detection power of task-activation in some, but not all, brain areas. There were no significant differences in functional connectivity as a function of resolution after smoothing. Similarly, the reduced tSNR of fMRI data acquired with a SENSE factor of 2 is offset by the greater number of images acquired, resulting in few significant differences in detection power of either functional activation or connectivity after spatial smoothing.

Keywords: Detection power; Functional MRI; Functional connectivity; Resolution; SENSE; Spatial smoothing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rest / physiology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Task Performance and Analysis*