Inscapes: A movie paradigm to improve compliance in functional magnetic resonance imaging

Neuroimage. 2015 Nov 15:122:222-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.07.069. Epub 2015 Aug 1.


The examination of functional connectivity in fMRI data collected during task-free "rest" has provided a powerful tool for studying functional brain organization. Limitations of this approach include susceptibility to head motion artifacts and participant drowsiness or sleep. These issues are especially relevant when studying young children or clinical populations. Here we introduce a movie paradigm, Inscapes, that features abstract shapes without a narrative or scene-cuts. The movie was designed to provide enough stimulation to improve compliance related to motion and wakefulness while minimizing cognitive load during the collection of functional imaging data. We compare Inscapes to eyes-open rest and to age-appropriate movie clips in healthy adults (Ocean's Eleven, n=22) and a pilot sample of typically developing children ages 3-7 (Fantasia, n=13). Head motion was significantly lower during both movies relative to rest for both groups. In adults, movies decreased the number of participants who self-reported sleep. Intersubject correlations, used to quantify synchronized, task-evoked activity across movie and rest conditions in adults, involved less cortex during Inscapes than Ocean's Eleven. To evaluate the effect of movie-watching on intrinsic functional connectivity networks, we examined mean functional connectivity using both whole-brain functional parcellation and network-based approaches. Both inter- and intra-network metrics were more similar between Inscapes and Rest than between Ocean's Eleven and Rest, particularly in comparisons involving the default network. When comparing movies to Rest, the mean functional connectivity of somatomotor, visual and ventral attention networks differed significantly across various analyses. We conclude that low-demand movies like Inscapes may represent a useful intermediate condition between task-free rest and typical narrative movies while still improving participant compliance. Inscapes is publicly available for download at

Keywords: Default network; Head motion; Movies; Naturalistic; Resting state; fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Artifacts*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Motion Pictures
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult