How restful is it with all that noise? Comparison of Interleaved silent steady state (ISSS) and conventional imaging in resting-state fMRI

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Resting-state fMRI studies have become very important in cognitive neuroscience because they are able to identify BOLD fluctuations in brain circuits involved in motor, cognitive, or perceptual processes without the use of an explicit task. Such approaches have been fruitful when applied to various disordered populations, or to children or the elderly. However, insufficient attention has been paid to the consequences of the loud acoustic scanner noise associated with conventional fMRI acquisition, which could be an important confounding factor affecting auditory and/or cognitive networks in resting-state fMRI. Several approaches have been developed to mitigate the effects of acoustic noise on fMRI signals, including sparse sampling protocols and interleaved silent steady state (ISSS) acquisition methods, the latter being used only for task-based fMRI. Here, we developed an ISSS protocol for resting-state fMRI (rs-ISSS) consisting of rapid acquisition of a set of echo planar imaging volumes following each silent period, during which the steady state longitudinal magnetization was maintained with a train of relatively silent slice-selective excitation pulses. We evaluated the test-retest reliability of intensity and spatial extent of connectivity networks of fMRI BOLD signal across three different days for rs-ISSS and compared it with a standard resting-state fMRI (rs-STD). We also compared the strength and distribution of connectivity networks between rs-ISSS and rs-STD. We found that both rs-ISSS and rs-STD showed high reproducibility of fMRI signal across days. In addition, rs-ISSS showed a more robust pattern of functional connectivity within the somatosensory and motor networks, as well as an auditory network compared with rs-STD. An increased connectivity between the default mode network and the language network and with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) network was also found for rs-ISSS compared with rs-STD. Finally, region of interest analysis showed higher interhemispheric connectivity in Heschl's gyri in rs-ISSS compared with rs-STD, with lower variability across days. The present findings suggest that rs-ISSS may be advantageous for detecting network connectivity in a less noisy environment, and that resting-state studies carried out with standard scanning protocols should consider the potential effects of loud noise on the measured networks.

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