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When modelling FMRI and other MRI time-series data, a Bayesian approach based on adaptive spatial smoothness priors is a compelling alternative to using a standard generalized linear model (GLM) on presmoothed data. Another benefit of the Bayesian approach is that biophysical prior information can be incorporated in a principled manner; however, this requirement for a fixed non-spatial prior on a parameter would normally preclude using spatial regularization on that same parameter. We have developed a Gaussian-process-based prior to apply adaptive spatial regularization while still ensuring that the fixed biophysical prior is correctly applied on each voxel. A parameterized covariance matrix provides separate control over the variance (the diagonal elements) and the between-voxel correlation (due to off-diagonal elements). Analysis proceeds using evidence optimization (EO), with variational Bayes (VB) updates used for some parameters. The method can also be applied to non-linear forward models by using a linear Taylor expansion centred on the latest parameter estimates. Applying the method to FMRI with a constrained haemodynamic response function (HRF) shape model shows improved fits in simulations, compared to using either the non-spatial or spatial-smoothness prior alone. We also analyse multi-inversion arterial spin labelling data using a non-linear perfusion model to estimate cerebral blood flow and bolus arrival time. By combining both types of prior information, this new prior performs consistently well across a wider range of situations than either prior alone, and provides better estimates when both types of prior information are relevant.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





795 - 809


Algorithms, Brain, Computer Simulation, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Models, Neurological