Background and purpose: VBM is increasingly used in the study of neurodegeneration, and recently there has been interest in its potential as a biomarker. However, although it is largely "automated," VBM is rarely implemented consistently across studies, and changing user-specified options can alter the results in a way similar to the very biologic differences under investigation.
Materials and methods: This work uses data from patients with HD to demonstrate the effects of several user-specified VBM parameters and analyses: type and level of statistical correction, modulation, smoothing kernel size, adjustment for brain size, subgroup analysis, and software version.
Results: The results demonstrate that changing these options can alter results in a way similar to the biologic differences under investigation.
Conclusions: If VBM is to be useful clinically or considered for use as a biomarker, there is a need for greater recognition of these issues and more uniformity in its application for the method to be both reproducible and valid.