The Statistical Analysis of Multi-Voxel Patterns in Functional Imaging

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The goal of multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) in BOLD imaging is to determine whether patterns of activation across multiple voxels change with experimental conditions. MVPA is a powerful technique, its use is rapidly growing, but it poses serious statistical challenges. For instance, it is well-known that the slow nature of the BOLD response can lead to greatly exaggerated performance estimates. Methods are available to avoid this overestimation, and we present those here in tutorial fashion. We go on to show that, even with these methods, standard tests of significance such as Students' T and the binomial tests are invalid in typical MRI experiments. Only a carefully constructed permutation test correctly assesses statistical significance. Furthermore, our simulations show that performance estimates increase with both temporal as well as spatial signal correlations among multiple voxels. This dependence implies that a comparison of MVPA performance between areas, between subjects, or even between BOLD signals that have been preprocessed in different ways needs great care. © 2013 Schreiber et al.




Schreiber, K., & Krekelberg, B. (2013). The Statistical Analysis of Multi-Voxel Patterns in Functional Imaging. PLoS ONE, 8(7).

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