Effects of combining field strengths on auditory functional MRI group analysis: 1.5T and 3T

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To evaluate effects of combining functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data acquired from different field strengths on group analysis as a function of the number of subjects at each field strength.

Materials and Methods:

In all, 28 subjects (18 at 3T) participated in an auditory task of passively listening to a 0.75s segment of jazz music in an event-related design. Results of single-subject analysis were combined to create all possible subject combinations for a group size of eight subjects from each of the 3T and 1.5T pools, comprising subject mixtures of (3T/1.5T) 0/8, 2/6, 4/4, 6/2, and 8/0. Group analysis performance of each subject permutation was measured by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and activation overlap maps.


While area under ROC curves, extent of activation in the gold standard region, and reliability of activation increased with the number of 3T subjects, marginal gain decreased. ROC performance overlap across mixtures was observed, indicating that some combinations of subjects markedly outperformed others. For detection of activation, 4/4 was arguably the minimum mixture level that was comparable to 3T-only group results.


Inclusion of 1.5T data does not necessarily reduce the validity of group analysis. Lower field strength data was found only to limit detection power, but did not affect specificity. Within the limits of realignment error, these results should also extend to group longitudinal analyses of subject mixtures from different field strengths. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2011;. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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