Untangling the relatedness among correlations, Part II: Inter-subject correlation group analysis through linear mixed-effects modeling

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It has been argued that naturalistic conditions in FMRI studies provide a useful paradigm for investigating perception and cognition through a synchronization measure, inter-subject correlation (ISC). However, one analytical stumbling block has been the fact that the ISC values associated with each single subject are not independent, and our previous paper (Chen et al., 2016) used simulations and analyses of real data to show that the methodologies adopted in the literature do not have the proper control for false positives. In the same paper, we proposed nonparametric subject-wise bootstrapping and permutation testing techniques for one and two groups, respectively, which account for the correlation structure, and these greatly outperformed the prior methods in controlling the false positive rate (FPR); that is, subject-wise bootstrapping (SWB) worked relatively well for both cases with one and two groups, and subject-wise permutation (SWP) testing was virtually ideal for group comparisons. Here we seek to explicate and adopt a parametric approach through linear mixed-effects (LME) modeling for studying the ISC values, building on the previous correlation framework, with the benefit that the LME platform offers wider adaptability, more powerful interpretations, and quality control checking capability than nonparametric methods. We describe both theoretical and practical issues involved in the modeling and the manner in which LME with crossed random effects (CRE) modeling is applied. A data-doubling step further allows us to conveniently track the subject index, and achieve easy implementations. We pit the LME approach against the best nonparametric methods, and find that the LME framework achieves proper control for false positives. The new LME methodologies are shown to be both efficient and robust, and they will be publicly available in AFNI (http://afni.nimh.nih.gov).

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