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Using a novel source-localized phase regressor technique for evaluation of the vascular contribution to semantic category area localization in BOLD fMRI


Numerous studies have shown that gradient-echo blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) fMRI is biased toward large draining veins. However, the impact of this large vein bias on the localization and characterization of semantic category areas has not been examined. Here we address this issue by comparing standard magnitude measures of BOLD activity in the Fusiform Face Area (FFA) and Parahippocampal Place Area (PPA) to those obtained using a novel method that suppresses the contribution of large draining veins: source-localized phase regressor (sPR). Unlike previous suppression methods that utilize the phase component of the BOLD signal, sPR yields robust and unbiased suppression of large draining veins even in voxels with no task-related phase changes. This is confirmed in ideal simulated data as well as in FFA/PPA localization data from four subjects. It was found that approximately 38% of right PPA, 14% of left PPA, 16% of right FFA, and 6% of left FFA voxels predominantly reflect signal from large draining veins. Surprisingly, with the contributions from large veins suppressed, semantic category representation in PPA actually tends to be lateralized to the left rather than the right hemisphere. Furthermore, semantic category areas larger in volume and higher in fSNR were found to have more contributions from large veins. These results suggest that previous studies using gradient-echo BOLD fMRI were biased toward semantic category areas that receive relatively greater contributions from large veins.

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