The use of fMRI to detect neural responses to cognitive interference and planning: Evidence for a contribution of task related changes in heart rate?

D. van t Ent, A. den Braber, E. Rotgans, E.J.C. de Geus, J.C. de Munck

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    fMRI signals during rest are strongly correlated with heart rate variations. These heart rate/fMRI associations may influence the results of brain activation studies, particularly if heart rate is affected by the task. To assess the contribution of task-related heart rate changes on fMRI brain activation related to executive processing, we co-registered the electrocardiogram with fMRI in 91 subjects during an interference task (color-word Stroop) and during a planning task (Tower of London; ToL). We found that both Stroop interference and ToL planning significantly increased heart rate in the scanner and confirmed significant main effects of heart rate regressors on the fMRI signals. Nevertheless, statistical contrasts that test for increased fMRI during Stroop interference and ToL planning were not significantly influenced by inclusion of heart rate regressors. We conclude therefore that fMRI changes associated with heart rate changes do not impact strongly on higher-order fMRI effects in these commonly used executive function tasks, but routinely adding a correction seems prudent. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)97-107
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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