Revealing the mechanisms behind novel auditory stimuli discrimination: An evaluation of silent functional MRI using looping star

Nikou L Damestani, Owen O'Daly, Ana Beatriz Solana, Florian Wiesinger, David J Lythgoe, Simon Hill, Alfonso de Lara Rubio, Elena Makovac, Steven C R Williams, Fernando Zelaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Looping Star is a near-silent, multi-echo, 3D functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique. It reduces acoustic noise by at least 25dBA, with respect to gradient-recalled echo echo-planar imaging (GRE-EPI)-based fMRI. Looping Star has successfully demonstrated sensitivity to the cerebral blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) response during block design paradigms but has not been applied to event-related auditory perception tasks. Demonstrating Looping Star's sensitivity to such tasks could (a) provide new insights into auditory processing studies, (b) minimise the need for invasive ear protection, and (c) facilitate the translation of numerous fMRI studies to investigations in sound-averse patients. We aimed to demonstrate, for the first time, that multi-echo Looping Star has sufficient sensitivity to the BOLD response, compared to that of GRE-EPI, during a well-established event-related auditory discrimination paradigm: the "oddball" task. We also present the first quantitative evaluation of Looping Star's test-retest reliability using the intra-class correlation coefficient. Twelve participants were scanned using single-echo GRE-EPI and multi-echo Looping Star fMRI in two sessions. Random-effects analyses were performed, evaluating the overall response to tones and differential tone recognition, and intermodality analyses were computed. We found that multi-echo Looping Star exhibited consistent sensitivity to auditory stimulation relative to GRE-EPI. However, Looping Star demonstrated lower test-retest reliability in comparison with GRE-EPI. This could reflect differences in functional sensitivity between the techniques, though further study is necessary with additional cognitive paradigms as varying cognitive strategies between sessions may arise from elimination of acoustic scanner noise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2833-2850
Number of pages18
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number9
Early online date17 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2021

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