Spurious correlations in simultaneous EEG-fMRI driven by in-scanner movement

Marie-Christin Fellner, G. Volberg, Karen Mullinger, M. Goldhacker, Maria Wimber, Mark W. Greenlee, Simon Hanslmayr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
246 Downloads (Pure)


Simultaneous EEG-fMRI provides an increasingly attractive research tool to investigate cognitive processes with high temporal and spatial resolution. However, artifacts in EEG data introduced by the MR-scanner still remain a major obstacle. This study employing commonly used artifact correction steps shows that head motion, one overlooked major source of artifacts in EEG-fMRI data, can cause plausible EEG effects and EEG-BOLD correlations. Specifically, low frequency EEG (<20 Hz) is strongly correlated with in-scanner movement. Accordingly, minor head motion (<0.2 mm) induces spurious effects in a twofold manner: Small differences in task-correlated motion elicit spurious low frequency effects, and, as motion concurrently influences fMRI data, EEG-BOLD correlations closely match motion-fMRI correlations. We demonstrate these effects in a memory encoding experiment showing that obtained theta power (~3-7 Hz) effects and channel-level theta-BOLD correlations reflect motion in the scanner. These findings highlight an important caveat that needs to be addressed by future EEG-fMRI studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-366
Early online date21 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • EEG–BOLD correlations
  • Motion artifacts
  • Simultaneous EEG-fMRI
  • Theta oscillations
  • Subsequent memory effect


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