Education, tips and tricks to help you conduct better fMRI experiments.
Sure, you can try to fix it during data processing, but you're usually better off fixing the acquisition!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rare intermittent EPI artifacts: Spiking, sparking and arcing

Whatever you call them - spikes, sparks or arcs - the presence of unwanted electrical discharges during data acquisition can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of your EPIs and will likely result in poor or unusable data. (See Note 1.) There are many potential sources of unwanted electrical discharges - what I shall refer to as spikes for the rest of this post, regardless of the origin - in and around an MRI scanner. They can arise from within the scanner itself, or from items in the magnet room, or from items of clothing on a subject who hasn't been screened quite as thoroughly as he might have been.

Before we get to the sources, however, let's take a look at what we're talking about. Take a look at this mosaic of EPIs:

See the problem? No? Exactly! As I have mentioned several times in the past, many artifacts are best (or only) seen once the background level is brought up. Like this:

Aha! We clearly see the artifacts in this view: strange, variable patterns across entire slices.

Now, it isn't always necessary to crank the background intensity up to be able to see the effects of spikes, as we will see below. But as a general rule, the very first signs of spiking will be quite subtle and will likely be hidden away down in the noise with the N/2 ghosts and all the other crud. This is when you want to catch them, before they become intense and wreck your experiment. So, just to reinforce the point, take a look at this video and see if you can detect any anomalies in the images: