Use of concurrent pupil dilation assessment to inform interpretation and analysis of fMRI data

Greg J. Siegle, Stuart R. Steinhauer, V. Andrew Stenger, Roma Konecky, Cameron S Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Potential contributions of concurrently acquired pupil dilation data to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments were examined. Sixteen healthy participants completed a working memory task (digit sorting) during measurement of pupil dilation outside the fMRI environment and during concurrent 3T fMRI assessment. Pupil dilation increased parametrically with task difficulty inside and outside the scanner, on a similar time course, suggesting that task demand was similar in both environments. The time course of pupil dilation during digit sorting was similar to the time course of the fMRI signal in the middle frontal gyrus, suggesting that middle-frontal gyrus activity indexed the engagement working memory processes. Incorporating individual differences in pupil dilation improved the sensitivity and specificity of general linear modeling analyses of activity in the middle frontal gyrus, above and beyond standard analytic techniques. Results suggest concurrent pupil dilation during fMRI assessment can help to (1) specify whether task demand is the same inside and outside the fMRI environment, (2) resolve the extent to which fMRI signals reflect different aspects of event-related designs, and (3) explain variation in fMRI data due to individual differences in information processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-124
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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