OHBM 2022 Hackathon project: MOSAIC for VASO fMRI


Vascular Space Occupancy is an fMRI method that is popular for high-resolution layer-fMRI. Currently, the most popular sequence is the one by Rüdiger Stirnberg from the DZNE in Bonn, which is actively being employed at more than 30 sites.

Current users of the DZNE VASO sequence. Interactive map

This sequence concomitantly acquires fMRI BOLD and blood volume signals. In the SIEMENS reconstruction pipeline, these signals are mixed together within the same time series, which challenges its user friendliness. Specifically:
The “raw” dicom2nii-converted time-series are not BIDS compatible (see https://github.com/bids-standard/bids-specification/issues/1001).
The order of odd and even BOLD and VASO image TRs is dependent on the nii-converter.
Workarounds with 3D distortion correction, results in interpolation artifacts.
Workarounds without MOSAIC decorators result in impracticable large data sizes.

The goal of this Hackathon is to extend the 3D-MOSAIC to solve these constraints. This functor is commonly used to sort images by echo-times, by RF-channels, by magnitude and phase in the SIEMENS reconstruction pipeline into sets of mosaics . However currently, this functor does not yet support the dimensionality of SETs. In this project we seek to include SETs into the capabilities of the functor.

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Brain QR Modem

Are you ever annoyed how hard it is to get brain data off the scanner? The fact that scanners usually contain private information about patients and are thus embedded in maximally restrictive clinical cyber-security environments, makes it quite complicated to get access to the data. Especially when visiting collaborative sites.

In this this Hackathon project, we aim to develop a purely uni-directional (safe) data streaming “hack” to transfer MRI data directly to the cloud by means dynamic QR codes.

In the early days of the Internet, modems (modulator-demodulator) were used to (i) convert digital information into audio streams, (ii) transfer them across telephone lines, and (iii) convert them back into the digital domain. Here, we aim to do the same thing with pixel data of MRI scans. However, instead of audio signal we will use machine-readable visual information: QR codes.

Specific aims of the Brain QR modem

1.) We will develop an ICE-Functor that converts pixel data to QR codes in real time

2.) We will develop an Android app that converts the streamed QR coded into a series of png that are directly streamed to the cloud (Drive folder).

3.) We will develop a LayNii program that converts stacks of PNG images into Nii files.

This project contains many consecutive components of a modem. And will likely take 2-3 rounds of Hackathons to be completed.

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Baseline CBV and it’s role for the interpretation of layer-dependent VASO signals.

This blog post represents a continuation of the manuals regarding VASO acquisition and VASO signal analysis. It deals with the question of quantifying the VASO signal change with respect to the baseline blood volume at rest. In this post, I try to provide an overview of the values of baseline blood volume in the literature, I hypothesise reasons for their discrepancy and conclude by arguing that one should refrain from analyzing VASO in relative units after all.

Continue reading “Baseline CBV and it’s role for the interpretation of layer-dependent VASO signals.”

layer-fMRI Webinar MBIC 2020

Title: High resolution fMRI: An introductory course for data acquisition and analysis challenges.

Support: This lecture series is finanzially supported by the FPN-MBIC-school. The session on sequences and sequence artifacts is supported (in kind) by the York-Maastricht-partnership grant. Faruk Omer Gulban works for Brain Innovation.

Coordinators: Laurentius (Renzo) Huber & Omer Faruk Gulban, Cognitive Neuroscience Department

Email: renzohuber@gmail.com or faruk.gulban@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Dates: 7, 14, 21, 28 July 2020 (4 sessions in total), 3pm to 4:30pm.

Video Conference Zoom link (note that these sessions may be recorded): https://maastrichtuniversity.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAvcu-qpj8sHNVD71Vcu95et-R14QKRs22T

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TR-FOCI pulse optimisations for SS-SI VASO

CBV-fMRI with VASO is highly dependent on a good inversion contrast. It gives it its CBV sensitivity and is also responsible for most of the VASO specific pitfalls (e.g. inflow, CSF etc. ). And thus, it should be optimized as much as possible.

In this blog post, I want to describe the most important features of a reliable inversion pulse for the application of VASO at 7T with a head transmit coil.

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How send raw k-space data to any given server with Twix or with a modified ICE-chain

In this blog-post I want to describe a setup, how you can include an additional ICE functor in your reconstruction pipeline that sends raw Twix files from the Reconstruction computer to any given custom server.  Continue reading “How send raw k-space data to any given server with Twix or with a modified ICE-chain”

Documentation of Installing an IDEA VirtualBox for VE11 from OVA

This post documents the installation of an IDEA VE11 virtual box on a mac as done on May 14th 2018

Big thanks to Andy for figuring out how this works


  • Here I start with a already built images of IDEA on windows vista and mars on Ubuntu. the images from FMRIF can be taken from erbium.nimh.nih.gov:/fmrif/projects/SiemensIdea/virtual_machines/OVF/): IDEA_ve11c-mars.ova and IDEA_ve11c+vd13d+vd13a.ova
  • Virtual box software can be downloaded here.

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EPI phase correction algorithms

At high resolution EPI, the gradients are pushed to their limits and the ramp sampling ratio is particularly large. This means that the ghosting is increased and the Nyquist ghost correction is getting more important. In this post, I describe how to change the Nyquist ghost correction algorithm.

The high ramp sampling ratio in high-resolution EPI results in larger ghosts. Changing the correction algorithm from “normal” to “local” can help a lot.

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SS-SI VASO pitfalls in visual cortex

Activation maps for BOLD and VASO. At about 0.8 mm resolution, one starts to see that VASO is less sensitive to large draining veins.

With respect to high-resolution VASO application, visual cortex is very unique. I found it to be a challenging area. However, because of its high demand, I have been working on is with multiple collaborators. The most important pitfalls of SS-SI VASO in visual cortex that I came across in these collaborations are discussed below.

The take home message tat I learned from manny experiments is:

  1. Use axial slices with the phase encoding direction A>>P.
  2. Watch out for negative voxels.
  3. Invest a lot of effort in optimizing GRAPPA parameters, its worth it.

Continue reading “SS-SI VASO pitfalls in visual cortex”

Partial-Fourier imaging at High Resolutions

This blog post discusses the resolution loss when applying partial-Fourier imaging in GE-EPI in the presence of strong T2*-decay.

I found that that when I was aiming for high-resolutions, it is beneficial to refrain from the application of partial Fourier (PF) imaging as much as possible. For the long readout durations at high-resolutions and the fast T2/T2*-decay at high field strengths results in even stronger blurring of partial-Fourier.

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Finding ROI of the double layers in M1

In this post I want to describe the guidelines that helped me to find the right spot of primary motor cortex (M1) that has a double-layer pattern during a conventional finger tapping task.

The motor cortex is an excellent model system to debug-layer fMRI methodology for multiple reasons:

  1. It has a consistent folding pattern across people.
  2. Its folding pattern is convoluted across one axis only. Hence, it is possible to use thicker slices with higher in-plane resolution.
  3. With 4mm, its is the thickest part of the cortex compared to all other areas. Hence, layer analysis can be done even with 1.2 mm voxels.
  4. It has an expected double layer structure, with two separate peaks. The separability of the peaks can be used as a measure of functional specificity.
  5. It is very close to the RF-receive coils and has high tSNR.
  6. It is easy to shim.

One tricky part, however, is to find the right location of the double layer feature.

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Gradient Temperature

tSNR changes across time

I got interested in gradient temperature because of the weird effect that tSNR seemed to increase over time.

Upon posing this effect on Twitter, PracitalfMRI and Ben Poser suggested that it might be due to gradient temperature. So I learned how to track it with as described below.

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GRAPPA kernel size

Almost every modern fMRI protocol (at SIEMENS scanners) uses GRAPPA. However, only very few people pay a lot of attention on optimal usage of the GRAPPA auto-callibration data. I realized the importance of optimizing GRAPPA parameters when doing high-resolution EPI. At high resolutions, GRAPPA-related noise can become an increasingly important limitation.  This is especially true with the low bandwidth that the body gradient coils force us to use.

In this blog-post I will explain how the GRAPPA kernel-size affects the fMRI data quality, how you can change it, how you can find out which kernel-size was used, and I will descrive simple software tools to identify regions that might benefit from adaptations of the GRAPPA-kernel size.

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How to deal with Ghosts in high-res EPI


Ghost are the biggest limitation in high res fMRI. Similar to low resolution fMRI, ghosts in sub-millimeter EPI are arising from mismatch of k-space lines. This mismatch can be associated with (A) the actual readout itself or (B) inappropriate GRAPPA auto calibration data.

Here I try to make notes of strategies that I found helpful to minimize ghosts.

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