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Stability of resting fMRI interregional correlations analyzed in subject-native space: a one-year longitudinal study in healthy adults and premanifest Huntington's disease.


The pattern of interregional functional MRI correlations at rest is being actively considered as a potential noninvasive biomarker in multiple diseases. Before such methods can be used in clinical studies it is important to establish their usefulness in three ways. First, the long-term stability of resting correlation patterns should be characterized, but there have been very few such studies. Second, analysis of resting correlations should account for the unique neuroanatomy of each subject by taking measurements in native space and avoiding transformation of functional data to a standard volume space (e.g., Talairach-Tournox or Montreal Neurological Institute atlases). Transformation to a standard volume space has been shown to variably influence the measurement of functional correlations, and this is a particular concern in diseases which may cause structural changes in the brain. Third, comparisons within the patient population of interest and comparisons between patients and age-matched controls, should demonstrate sensitivity to any disease-related disruption of resting functional correlations. Here we examine the test-retest stability of resting fMRI correlations over a period of one year in a group of healthy adults and in a group of cognitively intact individuals who are gene-positive for Huntington's disease. A recently-developed method is used to measure functional correlations in the native space of individual subjects. The utility of resting functional correlations as a biomarker in premanifest Huntington's disease is also investigated. Results in control and premanifest Huntington's populations were both highly consistent at the group level over one year. We thus show that when resting fMRI analysis is performed in native space (to reduce confounds in registration between subjects and groups) it has good long-term stability at the group level. Individual-subject level results were less consistent between visit 1 and visit 2, suggesting further work is required before resting fMRI correlations can be useful diagnostically for individual patients. No significant effect of premanifest Huntington's disease on prespecified interregional fMRI correlations was observed relative to the control group using either baseline or longitudinal measures. Within the premanifest Huntington's group, though, there was evidence that decreased striatal functional correlations might be associated with disease severity, as gauged by estimated years to symptom onset or by striatal volume.

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