At ultra-high field, fMRI voxels can span the sub-millimeter range, allowing the recording of blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) responses at the level of fundamental units of neural computation, such as cortical columns and layers. This sub-millimeter resolution, however, is only nominal in nature as a number of factors limit the spatial acuity of functional voxels. Multivoxel Pattern Analysis (MVPA) may provide a means to detect information at finer spatial scales that may otherwise not be visible at the single voxel level due to limitations in sensitivity and specificity. Here, we evaluate the spatial scale of stimuli specific BOLD responses in multivoxel patterns exploited by linear Support Vector Machine, Linear Discriminant Analysis and Naïve Bayesian classifiers across cortical depths in V1. To this end, we artificially misaligned the testing relative to the training portion of the data in increasing spatial steps, then investigated the breakdown of the classifiers’ performances. A one voxel shift led to a significant decrease in decoding accuracy (p < 0.05) across all cortical depths, indicating that stimulus specific responses in a multivoxel pattern of BOLD activity exploited by multivariate decoders can be as precise as the nominal resolution of single voxels (here 0.8 mm isotropic). Our results further indicate that large draining vessels, prominently residing in proximity of the pial surface, do not, in this case, hinder the ability of MVPA to exploit fine scale patterns of BOLD signals. We argue that tailored analytical approaches can help overcoming limitations in high-resolution fMRI and permit studying the mesoscale organization of the human brain with higher sensitivities.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr. Junpeng Lao for the useful discussions on analytical procedures, and Yulia Revina for help with reference data. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation under the Specific Grant Agreement No. 720270 and 785907 (Human Brain Project SGA1 and SGA2) and European Research Council (ERC StG 2012_311751-“Brain reading of contextual feedback and predictions” to LM).
© 2020, The Author(s).