Numerous studies on the tonotopic organisation of auditory cortex in humans have employed a wide range of neuroimaging protocols to assess cortical frequency tuning. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we made a systematic comparison between acquisition protocols with variable levels of interference from acoustic scanner noise. Using sweep stimuli to evoke travelling waves of activation, we measured sound-evoked response signals using sparse, clustered, and continuous imaging protocols that were characterised by inter-scan intervals of 8.8, 2.2, or 0.0. s, respectively. With regard to sensitivity to sound-evoked activation, the sparse and clustered protocols performed similarly, and both detected more activation than the continuous method. Qualitatively, tonotopic maps in activated areas proved highly similar, in the sense that the overall pattern of tonotopic gradients was reproducible across all three protocols. However, quantitatively, we observed substantial reductions in response amplitudes to moderately low stimulus frequencies that coincided with regions of strong energy in the scanner noise spectrum for the clustered and continuous protocols compared to the sparse protocol. At the same time, extreme frequencies became over-represented for these two protocols, and high best frequencies became relatively more abundant. Our results indicate that although all three scanning protocols are suitable to determine the layout of tonotopic fields, an exact quantitative assessment of the representation of various sound frequencies is substantially confounded by the presence of scanner noise. In addition, we noticed anomalous signal dynamics in response to our travelling wave paradigm that suggest that the assessment of frequency-dependent tuning is non-trivially influenced by time-dependent (hemo)dynamics when using sweep stimuli.
- Acoustic scanner noise
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
- Human auditory cortex
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience