Consistency of inter-trial activation using single-trial fMRI: assessment of regional differences.

Brain research. Cognitive brain research

PubMedID: 11867257

Windischberger C, Lamm C, Bauer H, Moser E. Consistency of inter-trial activation using single-trial fMRI: assessment of regional differences. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2002;13(1):129-38.
Recently, the technique of single-trial fMRI was introduced, which allows the assessment of hemodynamic responses to single task executions (e.g. sensory, motor, or cognitive). In this study, single-trial fMRI was used to examine regional differences in the inter-trial consistency (ITC) of brain activity related to the processing of a dynamic visuo-spatial imagery task. For every single trial, a t-statistic assessing task-related activation was calculated and thresholded at a p-value of P < or =l0.05 (uncorrected). The percentage of trials with t-values above the threshold was used to assess differences in the consistency of brain activity in occipital, parietal, premotor and prefrontal regions of interest. While most of these regions showed activation which was highly consistent across trials, the consistency of activation was significantly reduced in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. We hypothesize that the consistency of activation across trials may be interpreted as an indicator of the functional relevance of a brain region for processing and solving a cognitive task. Thus, the analysis concept presented here has the potential to provide new insights into the neuro-cognitive mechanisms of human information processing. In addition, the results of this study confirm that averaging across trials might result in a significant loss of information about functional neuroanatomy. Regions which are active in some trials only, which show only weak activity increases, or whose activity is not constant and time-locked, might not show up in averaged activation maps and could thus erroneously be interpreted as irrelevant for task processing.