The premises of this work are: 1) the limit of spatial resolution in fMRI is determined by anatomy of the microcirculation; 2) because of cortical gray matter tortuosity, fMRI experiments should (in principle) be carried out using cubic voxels; and 3) the noise in fMRI experiments is dominated by low-frequency BOLD fluctuations that are a consequence of spontaneous neuronal events and are pixel-wise dependent. A new model is proposed for fMRI contrast which predicts that the contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) tends to be independent of voxel dimensions (in the absence of partial voluming of activated tissue), TE, and scanner bandwidth. These predictions have been tested at 3 T, and results support the model. Scatter plots of fMRI signal intensities and low-frequency fluctuations for activated pixels in a finger-tapping paradigm demonstrated a linear relationship between signal and noise that was independent of TE. The R2 value was about 0.9 across eight subjects studied. The CNR tended to be constant across pixels within a subject but varied across subjects: CNR = 3.2 ± 1.0. fMRI statistics at 20- and 40-ms TE values were indistinguishable, and TE values as short as 10 ms were used successfully. Robust fMRI data were obtained across all subjects using 1 × 1 × 1 mm3 cubic voxels with 10 contiguous slices, although 1.5 × 1.5 × 1.5 mm3 was found to be optimum.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- BOLD contrast
- Physiological noise