Data-driven beamforming techniques to attenuate ballistocardiogram (BCG) artefacts in EEG-fMRI without detecting cardiac pulses in electrocardiography (ECG) recordings
Simultaneous recording of EEG and fMRI is a very promising non-invasive neuroimaging technique, providing a wide range of complementary information to characterize underlying mechanisms associated with brain functions. However, EEG data obtained from the simultaneous EEG-fMRI recordings are strongly influenced by MRI related artefacts, namely gradient artefacts (GA) and ballistocardiogram (BCG) artefacts. The GA is induced by temporally varying magnetic field gradients used for MR imaging,
... as the BCG artefacts are produced by cardiac pulse driven head motion in the strong magnetic field of the MRI scanner, so that this BCG artefact will be present when the subject is lying in the scanner, even when no fMRI data are acquired. When compared to corrections of the GA, the BCG artefact corrections are more challenging to remove due to its inherent variabilities and dynamic changes over time. Typically, the BCG artefacts obscure the EEG signals below 20Hz, and this remains problematic especially when the frequency of interest of EEG signals is below 20Hz, such as Alpha (8-13Hz) and Beta (13-30Hz) band EEG activity, or sleep spindle (11-16Hz) and slow-wave oscillations (<1 Hz) during sleep. The standard BCG artefact corrections, as for instance Average Artefact Subtraction method (AAS), require detecting cardiac pulse (R-peak) events from simultaneous electrocardiography (ECG) recordings. However, ECG signals in the MRI scanner are sometimes distorted and will become problematic for detecting reliable R-peaks. In this study, we focused on a beamforming technique, which is a spatial filtering technique to reject sources of signal variance that do not appear dipolar in the source space. This technique attenuates all unwanted source activities outside of a presumed region of interest without having to specify the location or the configuration of these underlying source signals. Specifically, in this study, we revisited the advantages of the beamforming technique to attenuate the BCG artefact in EEG-fMRI, and also to recover meaningful task-based induced neural signals during an attentional network task (ANT) which required participants to identify visual cues and respond as accurately and quickly as possible. We analysed EEG-fMRI data in 20 healthy participants when they were performing the ANT, and compared four different BCG correction approaches (non-BCG corrected, AAS BCG corrected, beamforming+AAS BCG corrected, beamforming BCG corrected). We demonstrated that beamforming BCG corrected data did not only significantly reduce the BCG artefacts, but also significantly recovered the expected task-based induced brain activity when compared to the standard AAS BCG corrections. Without detecting R-peak events from the ECG, this data-driven beamforming technique appears promising especially for longer data acquisition of sleep and resting EEG-fMRI. Our findings extend previous work regarding the recovery of meaningful EEG signals by an optimized suppression of MRI related artefacts.