Multivariate pattern classification analysis (MVPA) has been applied to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data to decode brain states from spatially distributed activation patterns. Decoding upper limb movements from non-invasively recorded human brain activation is crucial for implementing a brain–machine interface that directly harnesses an individual's thoughts to control external devices or computers. The aim of this study was to decode the individual finger movements from fMRI single-trial data. Thirteen healthy human subjects participated in a visually cued delayed finger movement task, and only one slight button press was performed in each trial. Using MVPA, the decoding accuracy (DA) was computed separately for the different motor-related regions of interest. For the construction of feature vectors, the feature vectors from two successive volumes in the image series for a trial were concatenated. With these spatial–temporal feature vectors, we obtained a 63.1% average DA (84.7% for the best subject) for the contralateral primary somatosensory cortex and a 46.0% average DA (71.0% for the best subject) for the contralateral primary motor cortex; both of these values were significantly above the chance level (20%). In addition, we implemented searchlight MVPA to search for informative regions in an unbiased manner across the whole brain. Furthermore, by applying searchlight MVPA to each volume of a trial, we visually demonstrated the information for decoding, both spatially and temporally. The results suggest that the non-invasive fMRI technique may provide informative features for decoding individual finger movements and the potential of developing an fMRI-based brain–machine interface for finger movement.
We explored the decoding of individual finger movements using fMRI, and the multivariate pattern classification analysis was based on single trial data. We found that the decoding accuracies in the brain ROI of left S1 and M1 were significantly above the chance level. This study might allow a better understanding the basis neural mechanism controlling the movements of individual fingers and may provide new insights into the potential of an fMRI-based BMI for finger movements.