Variability of fMRI-response patterns at different spatial observation scales.

Human brain mapping

PubMedID: 21404370

Ball T, Breckel TP, Mutschler I, Aertsen A, Schulze-Bonhage A, Hennig J, Speck O. Variability of fMRI-response patterns at different spatial observation scales. Hum Brain Mapp. 2012;33(5):1155-71.
Functional organization units of the cerebral cortex exist over a wide range of spatial scales, from local circuits to entire cortical areas. In the last decades, scale-space representations of neuroimaging data suited to probe the multi-scale nature of cortical functional organization have been introduced and methodologically elaborated. For this purpose, responses are statistically detected over a range of spatial scales using a family of Gaussian filters, with small filters being related to fine and large filters-to coarse spatial scales. The goal of the present study was to investigate the degree of variability of fMRI-response patterns over a broad range of observation scales. To this aim, the same fMRI data set obtained from 18 subjects during a visuomotor task was analyzed with a range of filters from 4- to 16-mm full width at half-maximum (FWHM). We found substantial observation-scale-related variability. For example, using filter widths of 6- to 8-mm FWHM, in the group-level results, significant responses in the right secondary visual but not in the primary visual cortex were detected. However, when larger filters were used, the responses in the right primary visual cortex reached significance. Often, responses in probabilistically defined areas were significant when both small and large filters, but not intermediate filter widths were applied. This suggests that brain responses can be organized in local clusters of multiple distinct activation foci. Our findings illustrate the potential of multi-scale fMRI analysis to reveal novel features in the spatial organization of human brain responses.