One of the largest problems in using echo planar imaging is the level of image distortion due to susceptibility, that is observed. This can make some structures in the brain, such as the basal ganglia, hard to detect using EPI especially at 3 Tesla. As was mentioned in Chapter 2, the Fourier imaging techniques (2DFT) suffer much less from susceptibility distortion than EPI does, and this is one reason why these techniques are used in routine clinical scans. It is not impossible to carry out fMRI using 2DFT methods, particularly the fast techniques such as FLASH , but EPI will always have the speed advantage over such techniques. This is because the entire image is acquired from a single free induction decay (FID), whereas FLASH only acquires one line from each FID.
In order to improve the quality images in fMRI experiments, an approach that can be taken is to use a technique which is a hybrid of EPI and 2DFT, called interleaved EPI. This technique acquires the image in two or more FIDs, thereby trading some of the speed of EPI to gain some of the image quality of 2DFT.
Interleaved EPI was first proposed by McKinnon , as a way of implementing EPI on a standard clinical scanner, which did not have the necessary fast ramping gradients. Later it was also demonstrated that the technique could be used for fMRI . Interleaved EPI also has benefits however for scanners which can carry out conventional EPI, ranging from reducing distortion, improving linewidth, to increasing signal to noise.
This chapter describes the theory and implementation of interleaved EPI at 3 Tesla, for use in fMRI experiments. It outlines some of the benefits of using interleaved EPI, and the problems that occur in its use for fMRI.
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