Multi-slice passband bSSFP for human and rodent fMRI at ultra-high field

Balanced steady-state free precession (bSSFP) can be used as an alternative to gradient-echo (GE) EPI for BOLD functional MRI when image distortions and signal drop-outs are severe such as at ultra-high field. However, 3D-bSSFP acquisitions have distinct drawbacks on either human or animal MR systems. On clinical scanners, 3D imaging is suboptimal for localized fMRI applications. It can also display distortions when acceleration methods such as spiral read-outs are used, and, compared to multi-slice acquisitions, suffers from increased sensitivity to motion or physiological noise which further results in blurring. On pre-clinical systems, 3D acquisitions have low temporal resolution due to limited acceleration options, while single slice often results in insufficient coverage. The aim of the present study was to implement a multi-slice bSSFP acquisition with Cartesian read-out to obtain non-distorted BOLD fMRI activation maps in the human and rat brain at ultra-high field. We show that, when using a new pseudo-steady-state, the bSSFP signal characteristics are preserved. In the human brain at 7 T, we demonstrate that both task- and resting-state fMRI can be performed with multi-slice bSSFP, with a temporal SNR that matches that of 3D-bSSFP, resulting in - at least - equal performance. In the rat brain at 14 T, we show that the multi-slice bSSFP protocol has similar sensitivity to gradient-echo EPI for task fMRI, while benefitting from much reduced distortions and drop-outs. The advantages of passband bSSFP at 14 T in comparison with GE-EPI are expected to be even more marked for mouse brain.

Published in:
Journal of Magnetic Resonance, 305, 31-40

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 Record created 2019-07-01, last modified 2020-10-24

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