Statistical testing and power analysis for brain-wide association study

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Abstract

The identification of connexel-wise associations, which involves examining functional connectivities between pairwise voxels across the whole brain, is both statistically and computationally challenging. Although such a connexel-wise methodology has recently been adopted by brain-wide association studies (BWAS) to identify connectivity changes in several mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, autism and depression, the multiple correction and power analysis methods designed specifically for connexel-wise analysis are still lacking. Therefore, we herein report the development of a rigorous statistical framework for connexel-wise significance testing based on the Gaussian random field theory. It includes controlling the family-wise error rate (FWER) of multiple hypothesis testings using topological inference methods, and calculating power and sample size for a connexel-wise study. Our theoretical framework can control the false-positive rate accurately, as validated empirically using two resting-state fMRI datasets. Compared with Bonferroni correction and false discovery rate (FDR), it can reduce false-positive rate and increase statistical power by appropriately utilizing the spatial information of fMRI data. Importantly, our method bypasses the need of non-parametric permutation to correct for multiple comparison, thus, it can efficiently tackle large datasets with high resolution fMRI images. The utility of our method is shown in a case-control study. Our approach can identify altered functional connectivities in a major depression disorder dataset, whereas existing methods fail. A software package is available at https://github.com/weikanggong/BWAS.

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