Magnetic susceptibility-induced echo-time shifts: Is there a bias in age-related fMRI studies?

Giang Chau Ngo, Chelsea N. Wong, Steve Guo, Thomas Paine, Arthur F. Kramer, Bradley P. Sutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To evaluate the potential for bias in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) aging studies resulting from age-related differences in magnetic field distributions that can impact echo time and functional contrast. Materials and Methods: Magnetic field maps were taken on 31 younger adults (age: 22 ± 2.9 years) and 46 older adults (age: 66 ± 4.5 years) on a 3T scanner. Using the spatial gradients of the magnetic field map for each participant, an echo planar imaging (EPI) trajectory was simulated. The effective echo time, time at which the k-space trajectory is the closest to the center of k-space, was calculated. This was used to examine both within-subject and across-age-group differences in the effective echo time maps. The blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) percent signal change resulting from those echo time shifts was also calculated to determine their impact on fMRI aging studies. Results: For a single subject, the effective echo time varied as much as ±5 msec across the brain. An unpaired t-test between the effective echo time across age groups resulted in significant differences in several regions of the brain (P < 0.01). The difference in echo time was only ∼1 msec, however, which is not expected to have an important impact on BOLD fMRI percent signal change (<4%). Conclusion: Susceptibility-induced magnetic field gradients induce local echo-time shifts in gradient echo fMRI images, which can cause variable BOLD sensitivity across the brain. However, the age-related differences in BOLD signal are expected to be small for an fMRI study at 3T. Level of Evidence: 1. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2017;45:207–214.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • BOLD
  • field inhomogeneity
  • functional imaging
  • gradient echo imaging
  • k-space distortions
  • magnetic susceptibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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