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Nuisance effects and the limitations of nuisance regression in dynamic functional connectivity fMRI.

  • Author(s): Nalci, Alican
  • Rao, Bhaskar D
  • Liu, Thomas T
  • et al.
Abstract

In resting-state fMRI, dynamic functional connectivity (DFC) measures are used to characterize temporal changes in the brain's intrinsic functional connectivity. A widely used approach for DFC estimation is the computation of the sliding window correlation between blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signals from different brain regions. Although the source of temporal fluctuations in DFC estimates remains largely unknown, there is growing evidence that they may reflect dynamic shifts between functional brain networks. At the same time, recent findings suggest that DFC estimates might be prone to the influence of nuisance factors such as the physiological modulation of the BOLD signal. Therefore, nuisance regression is used in many DFC studies to regress out the effects of nuisance terms prior to the computation of DFC estimates. In this work we examined the relationship between seed-specific sliding window correlation-based DFC estimates and nuisance factors. We found that DFC estimates were significantly correlated with temporal fluctuations in the magnitude (norm) of various nuisance regressors. Strong correlations between the DFC estimates and nuisance regressor norms were found even when the underlying correlations between the nuisance and fMRI time courses were relatively small. We then show that nuisance regression does not necessarily eliminate the relationship between DFC estimates and nuisance norms, with significant correlations observed between the DFC estimates and nuisance norms even after nuisance regression. We present theoretical bounds on the difference between DFC estimates obtained before and after nuisance regression and relate these bounds to limitations in the efficacy of nuisance regression with regards to DFC estimates.

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