Are all fMRI studies wrong?

fMRI Scan

Maybe not all, but perhaps many.

The most widely used task functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analyses use parametric statistical methods that depend on a variety of assumptions. In this work, we use real resting-state data and a total of 3 million random task group analyses to compute empirical familywise error rates for the fMRI software packages SPM, FSL, and AFNI, as well as a nonparametric permutation method. For a nominal familywise error rate of 5%, the parametric statistical methods are shown to be conservative for voxelwise inference and invalid for clusterwise inference. Our results suggest that the principal cause of the invalid cluster inferences is spatial autocorrelation functions that do not follow the assumed Gaussian shape. By comparison, the nonparametric permutation test is found to produce nominal results for voxelwise as well as clusterwise inference. These findings speak to the need of validating the statistical methods being used in the field of neuroimaging.

and

In brief, we find that all three packages have conservative voxelwise inference and invalid clusterwise inference, for both one- and two-sample t tests. Alarmingly, the parametric methods can give a very high degree of false positives (up to 70%, compared with the nominal 5%) for clusterwise inference. By comparison, the nonparametric permutation test (22⇓⇓–25) is found to produce nominal results for both voxelwise and clusterwise inference for two-sample t tests, and nearly nominal results for one-sample t tests. We explore why the methods fail to appropriately control the false-positive risk.

The paper is currently in Early Edition at PNAS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *