Evaluating the Consistency and Specificity of Neuroimaging Data Using Meta-Analysis

Neuroimage. 2009 Mar;45(1 Suppl):S210-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.10.061. Epub 2008 Nov 20.


Making sense of a neuroimaging literature that is growing in scope and complexity will require increasingly sophisticated tools for synthesizing findings across studies. Meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies fills a unique niche in this process: It can be used to evaluate the consistency of findings across different laboratories and task variants, and it can be used to evaluate the specificity of findings in brain regions or networks to particular task types. This review discusses examples, implementation, and considerations when choosing meta-analytic techniques. It focuses on the multilevel kernel density analysis (MKDA) framework, which has been used in recent studies to evaluate consistency and specificity of regional activation, identify distributed functional networks from patterns of co-activation, and test hypotheses about functional cortical-subcortical pathways in healthy individuals and patients with mental disorders. Several tests of consistency and specificity are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity