Multi-echo EPI of human fear conditioning reveals improved BOLD detection in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.


Standard T2* weighted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) performed with echo-planar imaging (EPI) suffers from signal loss in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) due to macroscopic field inhomogeneity. However, this region is of special interest to affective neuroscience and psychiatry. The Multi-echo EPI (MEPI) approach has several advantages over EPI but its performance against EPI in the vmPFC has not yet been examined in a study with sufficient statistical power using a task specifically eliciting activity in this region. We used a fear conditioning task with MEPI to compare the performance of MEPI and EPI in vmPFC and control regions in 32 healthy young subjects. We analyzed activity associated with short (12ms), standard (29ms) and long (46ms) echo times, and a voxel-wise combination of these three echo times. Behavioral data revealed successful differentiation of the conditioned versus safety stimulus; activity in the vmPFC was shown by the contrast "safety stimulus > conditioned stimulus" as in previous research and proved significantly stronger with the combined MEPI than standard single-echo EPI. Then, we aimed to demonstrate that the additional cluster extent (ventral extension) detected in the vmPFC with MEPI reflects activation in a relevant cluster (i.e., not just non-neuronal noise). To do this, we used resting state data from the same subjects to show that the time-course of this region was both connected to bilateral amygdala and the default mode network. Overall, we demonstrate that MEPI (by means of the weighted sum combination approach) outperforms standard EPI in vmPFC; MEPI performs always at least as good as the best echo time for a given brain region but provides all necessary echo times for an optimal BOLD sensitivity for the whole brain. This is relevant for affective neuroscience and psychiatry given the critical role of the vmPFC in emotion regulation.

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.05.005

Cite this paper

@article{Fernandez2017MultiechoEO, title={Multi-echo EPI of human fear conditioning reveals improved BOLD detection in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.}, author={Brice Fernandez and Laura Leuchs and Philipp G. S{\"a}mann and Michael Czisch and Victor I. Spoormaker}, journal={NeuroImage}, year={2017}, volume={156}, pages={65-77} }