The relationship between BOLD fMRI response and the underlying white matter as measured by fractional anisotropy (FA): A systematic review

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Despite the relationship between brain structure and function being of fundamental interest in cognitive neuroscience, the relationship between the brain's white matter, measured using fractional anisotropy (FA), and the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response is poorly understood. A systematic review of literature investigating the association between FA and fMRI BOLD response was conducted following the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. The PubMed and Web of Knowledge databases were searched up until 22.04.2016 using a predetermined set of search criteria. The search identified 363 papers, 28 of which met the specified inclusion criteria. Positive relationships were mainly observed in studies investigating the primary sensory and motor systems and in resting state data. Both positive and negative relationships were seen in studies using cognitive tasks. This systematic review suggests that there is a relationship between FA and the fMRI BOLD response and that the relationship is task and region dependent. Behavioural and/or clinical variables were shown to be essential in interpreting the relationships between imaging measures. The results highlight the heterogeneity in the methods used across papers in terms of fMRI task, population investigated and data analysis techniques. Further investigation and replication of current findings are required before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

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