Functional MRI (fMRI) is a prominent imaging technique to probe brain function, however, a substantial proportion of noise from multiple sources influences the reliability and reproducibility of fMRI data analysis and limits its clinical applications. Extensive effort has been devoted to improving fMRI data quality, but in the last two decades, there is no consensus reached which technique is more effective. In this study, we developed a novel deep neural network for denoising fMRI data, named denoising neural network (DeNN). This deep neural network is 1) applicable without requiring externally recorded data to model noise; 2) spatially and temporally adaptive to the variability of noise in different brain regions at different time points; 3) automated to output denoised data without manual interference; 4) trained and applied on each subject separately and 5) insensitive to the repetition time (TR) of fMRI data. When we compared DeNN with a number of nuisance regression methods for denoising fMRI data from Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database, only DeNN had connectivity for functionally uncorrelated regions close to zero and successfully identified unbiased correlations between the posterior cingulate cortex seed and multiple brain regions within the default mode network or task positive network. The whole brain functional connectivity maps computed with DeNN-denoised data are approximately three times as homogeneous as the functional connectivity maps computed with raw data. Furthermore, the improved homogeneity strengthens rather than weakens the statistical power of fMRI in detecting intrinsic functional differences between cognitively normal subjects and subjects with Alzheimer’s disease.
Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.