Improved temporal resolution for functional studies with reduced number of segments with three-dimensional echo planar imaging
PURPOSE: To introduce a new k-space traversal strategy for segmented three-dimensional echo planar imaging (3D EPI) that encodes two partitions per radiofrequency excitation, effectively reducing the number excitations used to acquire a 3D EPI dataset by half. METHODS: The strategy was evaluated in the context of functional MRI applications for: image quality compared with segmented 3D EPI, temporal signal-to-noise ratio (tSNR) (the ability to detect resting state networks compared with multislice two-dimensional (2D) EPI and segmented 3D EPI, and temporal resolution (the ability to separate cardiac- and respiration-related fluctuations from the desired blood oxygen level-dependent signal of interest). RESULTS: Whole brain images with a nominal voxel size of 2 mm isotropic could be acquired with a temporal resolution under half a second using traditional parallel imaging acceleration up to 4x in the partition-encode direction and using novel data acquisition speed-up of 2x with a 32-channel coil. With 8x data acquisition speed-up in the partition-encode direction, 3D reduced excitations (RE)-EPI produced acceptable image quality without introduction of noticeable additional artifacts. Due to increased tSNR and better characterization of physiological fluctuations, the new strategy allowed detection of more resting state networks compared with multislice 2D-EPI and segmented 3D EPI. CONCLUSION: 3D RE-EPI resulted in significant increases in temporal resolution for whole brain acquisitions and in improved physiological noise characterization compared with 2D-EPI and segmented 3D EPI.