Functional magnetic resonance imaging signal has sub-second temporal accuracy

Yi Tien Li, Hsin Ju Lee, Fa Hsuan Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuronal activation sequence information is essential for understanding brain functions. Extracting such timing information from blood-oxygenation-level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals is confounded by local cerebral vascular reactivity (CVR), which varies across brain locations. Thus, detecting neuronal synchrony as well as inferring inter-regional causal modulation using fMRI signals can be biased. Here we used fast fMRI measurements sampled at 10 Hz to measure the fMRI latency difference between visual and sensorimotor areas when participants engaged in a visuomotor task. The regional fMRI timing was calibrated by subtracting the CVR latency measured by a breath-holding task. After CVR calibration, the fMRI signal at the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) preceded that at the visual cortex by 496 ms, followed by the fMRI signal at the sensorimotor cortex with a latency of 464 ms. Sequential LGN, visual, and sensorimotor cortex activations were found in each participant after the CVR calibration. These inter-regional fMRI timing differences across and within participants were more closely related to the reaction time after the CVR calibration. Our results suggested the feasibility of mapping brain activity using fMRI with accuracy in hundreds of milliseconds.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • breath-holding task
  • cerebral vascular reactivity
  • chronometry
  • fMRI timing
  • neuronal latency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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