This study proposes an iterative dual-regression (DR) approach with sparse prior regularization to better estimate an individual's neuronal activation using the results of an independent component analysis (ICA) method applied to a temporally concatenated group of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data (i.e., Tc-GICA method). An ordinary DR approach estimates the spatial patterns (SPs) of neuronal activation and corresponding time courses (TCs) specific to each individual's fMRI data with two steps involving least-squares (LS) solutions. Our proposed approach employs iterative LS solutions to refine both the individual SPs and TCs with an additional a priori assumption of sparseness in the SPs (i.e., minimally overlapping SPs) based on L(1)-norm minimization. To quantitatively evaluate the performance of this approach, semi-artificial fMRI data were created from resting-state fMRI data with the following considerations: (1) an artificially designed spatial layout of neuronal activation patterns with varying overlap sizes across subjects and (2) a BOLD time series (TS) with variable parameters such as onset time, duration, and maximum BOLD levels. To systematically control the spatial layout variability of neuronal activation patterns across the "subjects" (n=12), the degree of spatial overlap across all subjects was varied from a minimum of 1 voxel (i.e., 0.5-voxel cubic radius) to a maximum of 81 voxels (i.e., 2.5-voxel radius) across the task-related SPs with a size of 100 voxels for both the block-based and event-related task paradigms. In addition, several levels of maximum percentage BOLD intensity (i.e., 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0%) were used for each degree of spatial overlap size. From the results, the estimated individual SPs of neuronal activation obtained from the proposed iterative DR approach with a sparse prior showed an enhanced true positive rate and reduced false positive rate compared to the ordinary DR approach. The estimated TCs of the task-related SPs from our proposed approach showed greater temporal correlation coefficients with a reference hemodynamic response function than those of the ordinary DR approach. Moreover, the efficacy of the proposed DR approach was also successfully demonstrated by the results of real fMRI data acquired from left-/right-hand clenching tasks in both block-based and event-related task paradigms.
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