Single subject task-related BOLD signal artifact in a real-time fMRI feedback paradigm

Xiaochu Zhang, Thomas J. Ross, Betty Jo Salmeron, Shaolin Yang, Yihong Yang, Elliot A. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) has been proposed as a method of providing feedback to develop a participant's ability to control his or her own neuronal activity. However, this BOLD signal is vulnerable to contamination from nonneuronal sources that can also be shaped by the feedback provided. Here we illustrate an artifact found while training participants to control signal from an ROI in the insula. As the artifact was directly behind the eye and the experiment used an echo-planar imaging (EPI) sequence with phase encoding direction that included the orbits and the insula in the same line, we hypothesized that the artifact was due to eye motion. We demonstrate a reduced training effect when eyeball signal is regressed out of the data and reproduce the artifact with block design voluntary eye movement. Further, using independent components analysis on historical data, we find the artifact is common in BOLD data, but typically not task-correlated, even in tasks where one might expect differing amounts of eye movement in the active task blocks. The artifact, thus, does not significantly impact group results in typical fMRI experiments. Finally, we demonstrate this particular artifact can be avoided in rtfMRI experiments by ensuring that the phase encoding direction does not project any eye movement related artifact onto the ROI being used for feedback training. Our findings underscore the importance of taking great care in designing rtfMRI feedback procedures to avoid contamination with nonneuronal sources of BOLD signal alteration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)592-600
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Artifact
  • Eyeball motion
  • FMRI
  • Individual data
  • Real-time feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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