Test–retest and between-site reliability in a multicenter fMRI study

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Abstract

In the present report, estimates of test–retest and between-site reliability of fMRI assessments were produced in the context of a multicenter fMRI reliability study (FBIRN Phase 1, www.nbirn.net). Five subjects were scanned on 10 MRI scanners on two occasions. The fMRI task was a simple block design sensorimotor task. The impulse response functions to the stimulation block were derived using an FIR-deconvolution analysis with FMRISTAT. Six functionally-derived ROIs covering the visual, auditory and motor cortices, created from a prior analysis, were used. Two dependent variables were compared: percent signal change and contrast-to-noise-ratio. Reliability was assessed with intraclass correlation coefficients derived from a variance components analysis. Test–retest reliability was high, but initially, between-site reliability was low, indicating a strong contribution from site and site-by-subject variance. However, a number of factors that can markedly improve between-site reliability were uncovered, including increasing the size of the ROIs, adjusting for smoothness differences, and inclusion of additional runs. By employing multiple steps, between-site reliability for 3T scanners was increased by 123%. Dropping one site at a time and assessing reliability can be a useful method of assessing the sensitivity of the results to particular sites. These findings should provide guidance toothers on the best practices for future multicenter studies. Hum Brain Mapp, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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