Interleaved EPI Based fMRI Improved by Multiplexed Sensitivity Encoding (MUSE) and Simultaneous Multi-Band Imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a non-invasive and powerful imaging tool for detecting brain activities. The majority of fMRI studies are performed with single-shot echo-planar imaging (EPI) due to its high temporal resolution. Recent studies have demonstrated that, by increasing the spatial-resolution of fMRI, previously unidentified neuronal networks can be measured. However, it is challenging to improve the spatial resolution of conventional single-shot EPI based fMRI. Although multi-shot interleaved EPI is superior to single-shot EPI in terms of the improved spatial-resolution, reduced geometric distortions, and sharper point spread function (PSF), interleaved EPI based fMRI has two main limitations: 1) the imaging throughput is lower in interleaved EPI; 2) the magnitude and phase signal variations among EPI segments (due to physiological noise, subject motion, and B0 drift) are translated to significant in-plane aliasing artifact across the field of view (FOV). Here we report a method that integrates multiple approaches to address the technical limitations of interleaved EPI-based fMRI. Firstly, the multiplexed sensitivity-encoding (MUSE) post-processing algorithm is used to suppress in-plane aliasing artifacts resulting from time-domain signal instabilities during dynamic scans. Secondly, a simultaneous multi-band interleaved EPI pulse sequence, with a controlled aliasing scheme incorporated, is implemented to increase the imaging throughput. Thirdly, the MUSE algorithm is then generalized to accommodate fMRI data obtained with our multi-band interleaved EPI pulse sequence, suppressing both in-plane and through-plane aliasing artifacts. The blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) signal detectability and the scan throughput can be significantly improved for interleaved EPI-based fMRI. Our human fMRI data obtained from 3 Tesla systems demonstrate the effectiveness of the developed methods. It is expected that future fMRI studies requiring high spatial-resolvability and fidelity will largely benefit from the reported techniques.