The field of fMRI data analysis is rapidly growing in sophistication, particularly in the domain of multivariate pattern classification. However, the interaction between the properties of the analytical model and the parameters of the BOLD signal (e.g. signal magnitude, temporal variance and functional connectivity) is still an open problem. We addressed this problem by evaluating a set of pattern classification algorithms on simulated and experimental block-design fMRI data. The set of classifiers consisted of linear and quadratic discriminants, linear support vector machine, and linear and nonlinear Gaussian naive Bayes classifiers. For linear discriminant, we used two methods of regularization: principal component analysis, and ridge regularization. The classifiers were used (1) to classify the volumes according to the behavioral task that was performed by the subject, and (2) to construct spatial maps that indicated the relative contribution of each voxel to classification. Our evaluation metrics were: (1) accuracy of out-of-sample classification and (2) reproducibility of spatial maps. In simulated data sets, we performed an additional evaluation of spatial maps with ROC analysis. We varied the magnitude, temporal variance and connectivity of simulated fMRI signal and identified the optimal classifier for each simulated environment. Overall, the best performers were linear and quadratic discriminants (operating on principal components of the data matrix) and, in some rare situations, a nonlinear Gaussian naïve Bayes classifier. The results from the simulated data were supported by within-subject analysis of experimental fMRI data, collected in a study of aging. This is the first study that systematically characterizes interactions between analysis model and signal parameters (such as magnitude, variance and correlation) on the performance of pattern classifiers for fMRI.
Keywords: Classification; Multivariate pattern analysis; Principal component analysis (PCA); Regularization; Spatial maps.
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