Functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) has been widely applied to explore group and individual differences. A confounding factor is head motion. Children move more than adults, older adults more than younger adults, and patients more than controls. Head motion varies considerably among individuals within the same population. Here we explored the influence of head motion on fcMRI estimates. Mean head displacement, maximum head displacement, the number of micro movements (>0.1 mm), and head rotation were estimated in 1000 healthy, young adult subjects each scanned for two resting-state runs on matched 3T scanners. The majority of fcMRI variation across subjects was not linked to head motion. However, head motion had significant, systematic effects on fcMRI network measures. Head motion was associated with decreased functional coupling in the default and frontoparietal control networks--two networks characterized by coupling among distributed regions of association cortex. Other network measures increased with motion including estimates of local functional coupling and coupling between left and right motor regions--a region pair sometimes used as a control in studies to establish specificity. Comparisons between groups of individuals with subtly different levels of head motion yielded difference maps that could be mistaken for neuronal effects in other contexts. These effects are important to consider when interpreting variation between groups and across individuals.
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