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We compared two experimental designs aimed at minimizing the influence of scanner background noise (SBN) on functional MRI (fMRI) of auditory processes with one conventional fMRI design. Ten subjects listened to a series of four one-syllable words and had to decide whether two of the words were identical. This was contrasted with a no-stimulus control condition. All three experimental designs had a duration of ˜17 min: 1) a behavior interleaved gradients (BIG; Eden et al.  J Magn Reson Imaging 41:13-20) design (repetition time, TR, = 6 s), where stimuli were presented during the SBN-free periods between clustered volume acquisitions (CVA); 2) a sparse temporal sampling technique (STsamp; e.g., Gaab et al.,  Neuroimage 19:1417-1426) acquiring only one set of slices following each of the stimulations with a 16-s TR and jittered delay times between stimulus offset and image acquisition; and 3) an event-related design with continuous scanning (ERcont) using the stimulation design of STsamp but with a 2-s TR. The results demonstrated increased signal within Heschl's gyrus for the STsamp and BIG-CVA design in comparison to ERcont as well as differences in the overall functional anatomy among the designs. The possibility to obtain a time course of activation as well as the full recovery of the stimulus- and SBN-induced hemodynamic response function signal and lack of signal suppression from SBN during the STsamp design makes this technique a powerful approach for conducting auditory experiments using fMRI. Practical strengths and limitations of the three auditory acquisition paradigms are discussed. Hum Brain Mapp, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.