Signal Processing for Robust and Real-Time fMRI With Application to Brain Computer Interfaces

Abstract: It is hard to find another research field than functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that combines so many different areas of research. Without the beautiful physics of MRI we would not have any images to look at in the first place. To get images with good quality it is necessary to fully understand the concepts of the frequency domain. The analysis of fMRI data requires understanding of signal processing and statistics and also knowledge about the anatomy and function of the human brain. The resulting brain activity maps are used by physicians and neurologists in order to plan surgery and to increase their understanding of how the brain works.This thesis presents methods for signal processing of fMRI data in real-time situations. Real-time fMRI puts higher demands on the signal processing, than conventional fMRI, since all the calculations have to be made in realtime and in more complex situations. The result from the real-time fMRI analysis can for example be used to look at the subjects brain activity in real-time, for interactive planning of surgery or understanding of brain functions. Another possibility is to use the result in order to change the stimulus that is given to the subject, such that the brain and the computer can work together to solve a given task. These kind of setups are often called brain computer interfaces (BCI).Two BCI are presented in this thesis. In the first BCI the subject was able to balance a virtual inverted pendulum by thinking of activating the left or right hand or resting. In the second BCI the subject in the MR scanner was able to communicate with a person outside the MR scanner, through a communication interface.Since head motion is common during fMRI experiments it is necessary to apply image registration to align the collected volumes. To do image registration in real-time can be a challenging task, therefore how to implement a volume registration algorithm on a graphics card is presented. The power of modern graphic cards can also be used to save time in the daily clinical work, an example of this is also given in the thesis.Finally a method for calculating and incorporating a structural based certainty in the analysis of the fMRI data is proposed. The results show that the structural certainty helps to remove false activity that can occur due to head motion, especially at the edge of the brain.