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A serial functional connectivity MRI study in healthy individuals assessing the variability of connectivity measures

Reduced interhemispheric connectivity in the motor network during continuous performance
: Amann, M.; Hirsch, J.G.; Gass, A.


Magnetic resonance imaging 27 (2009), Nr.10, S.1347-1359
ISSN: 0730-725X
ISSN: 1873-5894
Fraunhofer MEVIS ()

To date, little data is available on the reproducibility of functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) studies. Here, we tested the variability and reproducibility of both the functional connectivity itself and different statistical methods to analyze this phenomenon. In the main part of our study, we repeatedly examined two healthy subjects in 10 sessions over 6 months with fcMRI. Cortical areas involved in motor function were examined under two different cognitive states: during continuous performance (CP) of a flexion/extension task of the fingers of the right hand and while subjects were at rest. Connectivity to left primary motor cortex (lSM1) was calculated by correlation analysis. The resulting correlation coefficients were transformed to z-scores of the standard normal distribution. For each subject, multisession statistical analyses were carried out with the z-score maps of the resting state (RS) and the CP experiments. First, voxel based t tests between the two groups of fcMRI experiments were performed. Second, ROI analyses were carried out for contralateral right SM1 and for supplementary motor area (SMA). For both ROI, mean and maximum z-score were calculated for each experiment. Also, the fraction of significantly (P.05) correlated voxels (FCV) in each ROI was calculated. To evaluate the differences between the RS and the CP condition, paired t tests were performed for the mean and maximum z-scores, and Wilcoxon signed ranks tests for matched pairs were carried out for the FCV. All statistical methods and connectivity measures under investigation yielded a distinct loss in left-right SM1 connectivity under the CP condition. For SMA, interindividual differences were apparent. We therefore repeated the fcMRI experiments and the ROI analyses in a group of seven healthy subjects (including the two subjects of the main study). In this substudy, we were able to verify the reduction of left-right SM1 connectivity during unilateral performance. Still, the direction of SMA to lSM1 connectivity change during the CP condition remained undefined as four subjects showed a connectivity increase and three showed a decrease. In summary, we were able to demonstrate a distinct reduction in left-right SM1 synchrony in the CP condition compared to the RS both in the longitudinal and in the multisubject study. This effect was reproducible with all statistical methods and all measures of connectivity under investigation. We conclude that despite intra- and interindividual variability, serial and cross-sectional assessment of functional connectivity reveals stable and reliable results.