"Voxel-based morphometry" should not be used with imperfectly registered images

Neuroimage. 2001 Dec;14(6):1454-62. doi: 10.1006/nimg.2001.0770.


John Ashburner and Karl Friston (2000) introduced a standardized method of "voxel-based morphometry" (VBM) for comparisons of local concentrations of gray matter between two groups of subjects. Segmented images of gray matter from grossly normalized high-resolution images are smoothed and their group differences analyzed by the now-conventional voxelwise Worsley approach to Gaussian random fields of differences. This comment concerns an unfortunate interaction between the algorithm's spatial normalization and voxelwise comparison steps, whereby several obvious quantitative confounds are injected at the core of the inference engine the authors put forward. Specifically, the statistics of the resulting voxelwise comparisons are uninformative about group differences wherever the spatial normalization algorithm has failed to register on any robustly appearing image gradient. The method of Ashburner and Friston is defensible only far from all image gradients.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Artifacts
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Mathematical Computing
  • Normal Distribution