The effects of multi-echo fMRI combination and rapid T2*-mapping on offline and real-time BOLD sensitivity

Stephan Heunis (Corresponding author), Marcel Breeuwer, César Caballero-Gaudes, Lydia Hellrung, Willem Huijbers, Jacobus F.A. Jansen, Rolf Lamerichs, Svitlana Zinger, Albert P. Aldenkamp

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A variety of strategies are used to combine multi-echo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, yet recent literature lacks a systematic comparison of the available options. Here we compare six different approaches derived from multi-echo data and evaluate their influences on BOLD sensitivity for offline and in particular real-time use cases: a single-echo time series (based on Echo 2), the real-time T2*-mapped time series (T2*FIT) and four combined time series (T2*-weighted, tSNR-weighted, TE-weighted, and a new combination scheme termed T2*FIT-weighted). We compare the influences of these six multi-echo derived time series on BOLD sensitivity using a healthy participant dataset (N = 28) with four task-based fMRI runs and two resting state runs. We show that the T2*FIT-weighted combination yields the largest increase in temporal signal-to-noise ratio across task and resting state runs. We demonstrate additionally for all tasks that the T2*FIT time series consistently yields the largest offline effect size measures and real-time region-of-interest based functional contrasts and temporal contrast-to-noise ratios. These improvements show the promising utility of multi-echo fMRI for studies employing real-time paradigms, while further work is advised to mitigate the decreased tSNR of the T2*FIT time series. We recommend the use and continued exploration of T2*FIT for offline task-based and real-time region-based fMRI analysis. Supporting information includes: a data repository (, an interactive web-based application to explore the data (, and further materials and code for reproducibility (

Original languageEnglish
Article number118244
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the foundation Health-Holland LSH-TKI (grant LSHM16053-SGF ) and supported by Philips Research. LH was supported by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Grant Agreement no 794395 . CCG was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Ramon y Cajal Fellowship, RYC-2017- 21845 ), the Basque Government ( PIBA_2019_104 ) and the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities ( MICINN ; PID2019-105520GB-100 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Adaptive paradigms
  • Amygdala
  • Emotion processing
  • Finger tapping
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Methods development
  • Motor
  • Multi-echo
  • Neurofeedback
  • Real-time
  • Resting state
  • Task


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