Partial least squares analysis of neuroimaging data: applications and advances

Neuroimage. 2004:23 Suppl 1:S250-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.07.020.


Partial least squares (PLS) analysis has been used to characterize distributed signals measured by neuroimaging methods like positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), event-related potentials (ERP) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). In the application to PET, it has been used to extract activity patterns differentiating cognitive tasks, patterns relating distributed activity to behavior, and to describe large-scale interregional interactions or functional connections. This paper reviews the more recent extension of PLS to the analysis of spatiotemporal patterns present in fMRI, ERP, and MEG data. We present a basic mathematical description of PLS and discuss the statistical assessment using permutation testing and bootstrap resampling. These two resampling methods provide complementary information of the statistical strength of the extracted activity patterns (permutation test) and the reliability of regional contributions to the patterns (bootstrap resampling). Simulated ERP data are used to guide the basic interpretation of spatiotemporal PLS results, and examples from empirical ERP and fMRI data sets are used for further illustration. We conclude with a discussion of some caveats in the use of PLS, including nonlinearities, nonorthogonality, and interpretation difficulties. We further discuss its role as an important tool in a pluralistic analytic approach to neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data
  • Magnetoencephalography / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / statistics & numerical data
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results