The conventional fMRI image analysis approach to associating stimuli to brain activation is performed by carrying out a massive number of parallel univariate regression analyses. fMRI blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal, the basis of these analyses, is known for its low signal-noise-ratio and high spatial and temporal signal correlation. In order to ensure accurate localization of brain activity, stimulus administration in an fMRI session is often lengthy and repetitive. Real-time fMRI BOLD signal analysis is carried out as the signal is observed. This method allows for dynamic, real-time adjustment of stimuli through sequential experimental designs. We have developed a voxel-wise sequential probability ratio test (SPRT) approach for dynamically determining localization, as well as decision rules for stopping stimulus administration. SPRT methods and general linear model (GLM) approaches are combined to identify brain regions that are activated by specific elements of stimuli. Stimulus administration is dynamically stopped when sufficient statistical evidence is collected to determine activation status across regions of interest, following predetermined statistical error thresholds. Simulation experiments and an example based on real fMRI data show that scan volumes can be substantially reduced when compared with pre-determined, fixed designs while achieving similar or better accuracy in detecting activated voxels. Moreover, the proposed approach is also able to accurately detect differentially activated areas, and other comparisons between task-related GLM parameters that can be formulated in a hypothesis-testing framework. Finally, we give a demonstration of SPRT being employed in conjunction with a halving algorithm to dynamically adjust stimuli.
Feng, I. J., Jack, A. I., & Tatsuoka, C. (2015). Dynamic adjustment of stimuli in real time functional magnetic resonance imaging. PLoS ONE, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0117942