An ever-increasing number of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies are now using information-based multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) techniques to decode mental states. In doing so, they achieve a significantly greater sensitivity compared to when they use univariate frameworks. However, the new brain-decoding methods have also posed new challenges for analysis and statistical inference on the group level. We discuss why the usual procedure of performing t-tests on accuracy maps across subjects in order to produce a group statistic is inappropriate. We propose a solution to this problem for local MVPA approaches, which achieves higher sensitivity than other procedures. Our method uses random permutation tests on the single-subject level, and then combines the results on the group level with a bootstrap method. To preserve the spatial dependency induced by local MVPA methods, we generate a random permutation set and keep it fixed across all locations. This enables us to later apply a cluster size control for the multiple testing problem. More specifically, we explicitly compute the distribution of cluster sizes and use this to determine the p-values for each cluster. Using a volumetric searchlight decoding procedure, we demonstrate the validity and sensitivity of our approach using both simulated and real fMRI data sets. In comparison to the standard t-test procedure implemented in SPM8, our results showed a higher sensitivity. We discuss the theoretical applicability and the practical advantages of our approach, and outline its generalization to other local MVPA methods, such as surface decoding techniques.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.