Correlations and anticorrelations in resting-state functional connectivity MRI: a quantitative comparison of preprocessing strategies

Neuroimage. 2009 Oct 1;47(4):1408-16. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.005. Epub 2009 May 13.


Resting-state data sets contain coherent fluctuations unrelated to neural processes originating from residual motion artefacts, respiration and cardiac action. Such confounding effects may introduce correlations and cause an overestimation of functional connectivity strengths. In this study we applied several multidimensional linear regression approaches to remove artificial coherencies and examined the impact of preprocessing on sensitivity and specificity of functional connectivity results in simulated data and resting-state data sets from 40 subjects. Furthermore, we aimed at clarifying possible causes of anticorrelations and test the hypothesis that anticorrelations are introduced via certain preprocessing approaches, with particular focus on the effects of regression against the global signal. Our results show that preprocessing in general greatly increased connection specificity, in particular correction for global signal fluctuations almost doubled connection specificity. However, widespread anticorrelated networks were only found when regression against the global signal was applied. Results in simulated data sets compared with result of human data strongly suggest that anticorrelations are indeed introduced by global signal regression and should therefore be interpreted very carefully. In addition, global signal regression may also reduce the sensitivity for detecting true correlations, i.e. increase the number of false negatives. Concluding from our results we suggest that is highly recommended to apply correction against realignment parameters, white matter and ventricular time courses, as well as the global signal to maximize the specificity of positive resting-state correlations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Rest / physiology
  • Statistics as Topic