Several independent studies have demonstrated that small amounts of in-scanner motion systematically bias estimates of resting-state functional connectivity. This confound is of particular importance for studies of neurodevelopment in youth because motion is strongly related to subject age during this period. Critically, the effects of motion on connectivity mimic major findings in neurodevelopmental research, specifically an age-related strengthening of distant connections and weakening of short-range connections. Here, in a sample of 780 subjects ages 8-22, we re-evaluate patterns of change in functional connectivity during adolescent development after rigorously controlling for the confounding influences of motion at both the subject and group levels. We find that motion artifact inflates both overall estimates of age-related change as well as specific distance-related changes in connectivity. When motion is more fully accounted for, the prevalence of age-related change as well as the strength of distance-related effects is substantially reduced. However, age-related changes remain highly significant. In contrast, motion artifact tends to obscure age-related changes in connectivity associated with segregation of functional brain modules; improved preprocessing techniques allow greater sensitivity to detect increased within-module connectivity occurring with development. Finally, we show that subject's age can still be accurately estimated from the multivariate pattern of functional connectivity even while controlling for motion. Taken together, these results indicate that while motion artifact has a marked and heterogeneous impact on estimates of connectivity change during adolescence, functional connectivity remains a valuable phenotype for the study of neurodevelopment.
Keywords: Adolescence; Connectivity; Connectome; Development; Motion artifact; Network; Resting-state; fMRI.
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