Tradeoffs in pushing the spatial resolution of fMRI for the 7T Human Connectome Project

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Whole-brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), in conjunction with multiband acceleration, has played an important role in mapping the functional connectivity throughout the entire brain with both high temporal and spatial resolution. Ultrahigh magnetic field strengths (7 T and above) allow functional imaging with even higher functional contrast-to-noise ratios for improved spatial resolution and specificity compared to traditional field strengths (1.5 T and 3 T). High-resolution 7 T fMRI, however, has primarily been constrained to smaller brain regions given the amount of time it takes to acquire the number of slices necessary for high resolution whole brain imaging. Here we evaluate a range of whole-brain high-resolution resting state fMRI protocols (0.9, 1.25, 1.5, 1.6 and 2 mm isotropic voxels) at 7 T, obtained with both in-plane and slice acceleration parallel imaging techniques to maintain the temporal resolution and brain coverage typically acquired at 3 T. Using the processing pipeline developed by the Human Connectome Project, we demonstrate that high resolution images acquired at 7 T provide increased functional contrast to noise ratios with significantly less partial volume effects and more distinct spatial features, potentially allowing for robust individual subject parcellations and descriptions of fine-scaled patterns, such as visuotopic organization.

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