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!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Using partial Fourier EPI for fMRI

Back in August I did a post on the experimental consequences of using partial Fourier for EPI. (An earlier post, PFUFA Part Fourteen introduces partial Fourier EPI.) The main point of that post was to demonstrate how, with all other parameters fixed, there are two principal effects on an EPI obtained with partial Fourier (pF) compared to using full phase encoding: global image smoothing, and regionally enhanced signal dropout. (See Note 1.)

In this post I want to look a little more closely at how pF-EPI works in practice, on a brain, with fMRI as the intended application, and to consider what other parameter options we have once we select pF over full k-space. I'll do two sets of comparisons. In the first comparison all parameters except the phase encoding k-space fraction will be fixed so that we can again consider the first stage consequences of using pF. In the second comparison each pF-EPI scheme will be optimized in a "maximum performance" test. The former is an apples to apples comparison, with essentially one variable changing at a time, whereas the latter is how you would ordinarily want to consider the pF options available to you.

Why might we want to consider partial Fourier EPI for fMRI anyway?

If we assume a typical in-plane matrix of 64 x 64 pixels, an echo spacing (the time for each phase-encoded gradient echo in the train, as explained in PFUFA Part Twelve) of 0.5 ms and a TE of 30 ms for BOLD contrast then it takes approximately 61 ms to acquire each EPI slice. (See Note 2 for the details.) The immediate consequence should be obvious: at 61 ms per slice we will be limited to 32 slices in a TR of 2000 ms. If the slice thickness is 3 mm then the total brain coverage in the slice dimension will be ~106 mm, assuming a 10% nominal inter-slice gap (i.e. 32 x 3.3 mm slices). With axial slices we aren't going to be able to cover the entire adult brain. We will have to omit either the top of parietal lobes or the bottom of the temporal lobes, midbrain, OFC and cerebellum. Judicious tilting might be able to capture all of the regions of primary interest to you, but we either need to reduce the time taken per slice or increase the TR to cover the entire brain.

Partial Fourier is one way to reduce the time spent acquiring each EPI slice. There are two basic ways to approach it: eliminate either the early echoes or the late echoes in the echo train, as described at the end of PFUFA: Part Fourteen. Eliminating the early echoes doesn't, by itself, save any time at all. Only if the TE is reduced in concert is there any time saving. But omitting the late echoes will mean that we complete the data acquisition for the current slice earlier than we would for full Fourier sampling, hence there is some intrinsic speed benefit. I'll come back to the time savings and their consequences later on. Let's first look at what happens when we enable partial Fourier without changing anything else.