Technical Note: Independent component analysis for quality assurance in functional MRI




Independent component analysis (ICA) is an established method of analyzing human functional MRI (fMRI) data. Here, an ICA-based fMRI quality control (QC) tool was developed and used.


ICA-based fMRI QC tool to be used with a commercial phantom was developed. In an attempt to assess the performance of the tool relative to preexisting alternative tools, it was used seven weeks before and eight weeks after repair of a faulty gradient amplifier of a non-state-of-the-art MRI unit. More specifically, its performance was compared with the AAPM 100 acceptance testing and quality assurance protocol and two fMRI QC protocols, proposed by Freidman et al. [“Report on a multicenter fMRI quality assurance protocol,” J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 23, 827–839 (2006)] and Stocker et al. [“Automated quality assurance routines for fMRI data applied to a multicenter study,” Hum. Brain Mapp. 25, 237–246 (2005)], respectively.


The easily developed and applied ICA-based QC protocol provided fMRI QC indices and maps equally sensitive to fMRI instabilities with the indices and maps of other established protocols. The ICA fMRI QC indices were highly correlated with indices of other fMRI QC protocols and in some cases theoretically related to them. Three or four independent components with slow varying time series are detected under normal conditions.


ICA applied on phantom measurements is an easy and efficient tool for fMRI QC. Additionally, it can protect against misinterpretations of artifact components as human brain activations. Evaluating fMRI QC indices in the central region of a phantom is not always the optimal choice.