Blood Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) is a commonly-used MR imaging technique in studying brain function. The BOLD signal can be strongly affected by specific sequence parameters, especially in small field strengths. Previous small-scale studies have investigated the effect of TE on BOLD contrast. This study evaluates the dependence of fMRI results on echo time (TE) during concurrent activation of the visual and motor cortex at 1.5 T in a larger sample of 21 healthy volunteers. The experiment was repeated using two different TE values (50 and 70 ms) in counterbalanced order. Furthermore, T2* measurements of the gray matter were performed. Results indicated that both peak beta value and number of voxels were significantly higher using TE = 70 than TE = 50 ms in primary motor, primary somatosensory and supplementary motor cortices (p < 0.007). In addition, the amplitude of activation in visual cortices and the dorsal premotor area was also higher using TE = 70 ms (p < 0.001). Gray matter T2* of the corresponding areas did not vary significantly. In conclusion, the optimal TE value (among the two studied) for visual and motor activity is 70 ms affecting both the amplitude and extent of regional hemodynamic activation.
Keywords: BOLD; MR imaging; T2* measurement; echo time; fMRI/motor activation; fMRI/visual activation.