Advancements in ultra-high field (7 T and higher) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners have made it possible to investigate both the structure and function of the human brain at a sub-millimeter scale. As neuronal feedforward and feedback information arrives in different layers, sub-millimeter functional MRI has the potential to uncover information processing between cortical micro-circuits across cortical depth, i.e. laminar fMRI. For nearly all conventional fMRI analyses, the main assumption is that the relationship between local neuronal activity and the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal adheres to the principles of linear systems theory. For laminar fMRI, however, directional blood pooling across cortical depth stemming from the anatomy of the cortical vasculature, potentially violates these linear system assumptions, thereby complicating analysis and interpretation. Here we assess whether the temporal additivity requirement of linear systems theory holds for laminar fMRI. We measured responses elicited by viewing stimuli presented for different durations and evaluated how well the responses to shorter durations predicted those elicited by longer durations. We find that BOLD response predictions are consistently good predictors for observed responses, across all cortical depths, and in all measured visual field maps (V1, V2, and V3). Our results suggest that the temporal additivity assumption for linear systems theory holds for laminar fMRI. We thus show that the temporal additivity assumption holds across cortical depth for sub-millimeter gradient-echo BOLD fMRI in early visual cortex.
Keywords: Cortical laminae; Linear systems; Neuroimaging; Visual system; fMRI.