Design of fMRI-compatible electronic musical interfaces



John Sullivan

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Avrum Hollinger

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M.A. Thesis, McGill University


The designs of two functional magnetic resonance imaging-compatible electronic interfaces for use in neuropsychological studies involving musical tasks are presented. The devices, a two-button response box in the form of a computer mouse and a piano keyboard, were designed for rhythmic tapping and piano performance tasks, respectively. In order to correlate changes in neural activation acquired through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with task performance, the electronic collection of behavioural data, such as the timing of button or key presses was required. These behavioural measures were captured electronically and communicated to a host computer for synchronization with feedback, stimuli, and the MRI scanner itself. As well, data was logged for offline analysis. Due to the intense and volatile electromagnetic fields, most commercially-available electronic interfaces do not function properly and can even pose a serious safety hazard within the MRI scanner environment. Therefore these custom-designed interfaces were free of ferromagnetic parts and all electronic components were relegated to the control room outside of the scanner environment. Acquisition of button and key presses was accomplished using fibre optic sensors, which are immune to electromagnetic interference. The devices performed successfully within the scanner, and MRI scans showed no image artifacts caused by the prototypes. Sens- ing of key and button transition velocity was sufficient after extensive calibration. Next generation prototypes are planned and will implement more robust and tighter tolerance manufacturing, improved sensing techniques, the acquisition of isometric forces, and an auto-calibration scheme.

Publication Details:

Masters Thesis
Montreal, Canada

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