Thermal Stimulus Task fMRI in the Cervical Spinal Cord at 7 Tesla.
Seifert AC., Xu J., Kong Y., Eippert F., Miller KL., Tracey I., Vannesjo SJ.
PURPOSE: Although functional MRI is widely applied in the brain, fMRI of the spinal cord is more technically demanding. Proximity to the vertebral column and lungs results in strong spatial inhomogeneity and temporal fluctuations in B 0 . Increasing field strength enables higher spatial resolution and improved sensitivity to BOLD signal, but amplifies the effects of B 0 inhomogeneity. In this work, we present the first stimulus task fMRI in the spinal cord at 7 T. Further, we compare the performance of single-shot and multi-shot 2D EPI protocols, as they differ in sensitivity to spatial and temporal B 0 inhomogeneity. METHODS: The cervical spinal cords of 11 healthy volunteers were scanned at 7 T using single-shot 2D EPI at 0.75 mm in-plane resolution and multi-shot 2D EPI at 0.75 and 0.6 mm in-plane resolutions. For each protocol, the BOLD response to thirteen 10-second noxious thermal stimuli applied to the right thumb was acquired in a 10-minute fMRI run. Image quality, temporal SNR, and BOLD activation (percent signal change and z-stat) at both individual- and group-level were evaluated between the protocols. RESULTS: Temporal SNR was highest in single-shot and multi-shot 0.75 mm protocols. In group-level analyses, activation clusters appeared in all protocols in the ipsilateral dorsal quadrant at the expected C6 neurological level. In individual-level analyses, activation clusters at the expected level were detected in some, but not all subjects and protocols. Single-shot 0.75 mm generally produced the highest mean z-statistic, while multi-shot 0.60 mm produced the best-localized activation clusters and the least geometric distortion. Larger than expected within-subject segmental variation of BOLD activation along the cord was observed. CONCLUSION: Group-level sensory task fMRI of the cervical spinal cord is feasible at 7 T with single-shot or multi-shot EPI. The best choice of protocol will likely depend on the relative importance of sensitivity to activation versus spatial localization of activation for a given experiment. HIGHLIGHTS: First stimulus task fMRI results in the spinal cord at 7 TSingle-shot 0.75 mm 2D EPI produced the highest mean z-statisticMulti-shot 0.60 mm 2D EPI provided the best-localized activation and least distortionGroup-level sensory task fMRI of the spinal cord is feasible at 7 T.