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Noise Reduction in Arterial Spin Labeling Based Functional Connectivity Using Nuisance Variables.

  • Author(s): Jann, Kay
  • Smith, Robert X
  • Rios Piedra, Edgar A
  • Dapretto, Mirella
  • Wang, Danny JJ
  • et al.
Abstract

Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) perfusion image series have recently been utilized for functional connectivity (FC) analysis in healthy volunteers and children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Noise reduction by using nuisance variables has been shown to be necessary to minimize potential confounding effects of head motion and physiological signals on BOLD based FC analysis. The purpose of the present study is to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of different noise reduction strategies (NRS) using nuisance variables to improve perfusion based FC analysis in two cohorts of healthy adults using state of the art 3D background-suppressed (BS) GRASE pseudo-continuous ASL (pCASL) and dual-echo 2D-EPI pCASL sequences. Five different NRS were performed in healthy volunteers to compare their performance. We then compared seed-based FC analysis using 3D BS GRASE pCASL in a cohort of 12 children with ASD (3f/9m, age 12.8 ± 1.3 years) and 13 typically developing (TD) children (1f/12m; age 13.9 ± 3 years) in conjunction with NRS. Regression of different combinations of nuisance variables affected FC analysis from a seed in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) to other areas of the default mode network (DMN) in both BOLD and pCASL data sets. Consistent with existing literature on BOLD-FC, we observed improved spatial specificity after physiological noise reduction and improved long-range connectivity using head movement related regressors. Furthermore, 3D BS GRASE pCASL shows much higher temporal SNR compared to dual-echo 2D-EPI pCASL and similar effects of noise reduction as those observed for BOLD. Seed-based FC analysis using 3D BS GRASE pCASL in children with ASD and TD children showed that noise reduction including physiological and motion related signals as nuisance variables is crucial for identifying altered long-range connectivity from PCC to frontal brain areas associated with ASD. This is the first study that systematically evaluated the effects of different NRS on ASL based FC analysis. 3D BS GRASE pCASL is the preferred ASL sequence for FC analysis due to its superior temporal SNR. Removing physiological noise and motion parameters is critical for detecting altered FC in neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD.

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