Influences on the Test-Retest Reliability of Functional Connectivity MRI and its Relationship with Behavioral Utility

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Abstract

Best practices are currently being developed for the acquisition and processing of resting-state magnetic resonance imaging data used to estimate brain functional organization—or “functional connectivity.” Standards have been proposed based on test-retest reliability, but open questions remain. These include how amount of data per subject influences whole-brain reliability, the influence of increasing runs versus sessions, the spatial distribution of reliability, the reliability of multivariate methods, and, crucially, how reliability maps onto prediction of behavior. We collected a dataset of 12 extensively sampled individuals (144 min data each across 2 identically configured scanners) to assess test-retest reliability of whole-brain connectivity within the generalizability theory framework. We used Human Connectome Project data to replicate these analyses and relate reliability to behavioral prediction. Overall, the historical 5-min scan produced poor reliability averaged across connections. Increasing the number of sessions was more beneficial than increasing runs. Reliability was lowest for subcortical connections and highest for within-network cortical connections. Multivariate reliability was greater than univariate. Finally, reliability could not be used to improve prediction; these findings are among the first to underscore this distinction for functional connectivity. A comprehensive understanding of test-retest reliability, including its limitations, supports the development of best practices in the field.

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