Experimental and methodological factors affecting test-retest reliability of amygdala BOLD responses

Psychophysiology. 2018 Dec;55(12):e13220. doi: 10.1111/psyp.13220. Epub 2018 Jul 30.


Previous studies reported poor to fair test-retest reliability of amygdala BOLD responses to emotional stimuli. However, these findings are very heterogeneous across and within studies. The present study sought to systematically examine experimental and methodological factors that contribute to this heterogeneity. Forty-six young subjects were scanned twice with a mean test-retest interval of 7 weeks. We compared amygdala reliability across three tasks: A face-matching task, passive viewing of emotional faces, and passive viewing of emotional scenes. We also explored whether extraction of physiological noise can affect the stability of amygdala responses. We assessed test-retest reliability of amygdala mean amplitudes at the individual level and spatial repeatability (i.e., stability of the spatial distribution of activation) of the amygdala BOLD signal at the group and individual level. All three tasks evoked robust amygdala activation at the group level. At the individual level, amygdala spatial repeatability was poor during passive viewing of scenes and faces and fair or close to fair in the face-matching task. On the other hand, reliability of amygdala mean responses was very poor in the face-matching task while it was significantly higher during passive viewing of faces and scenes. Physiological noise correction changed reliability rates but not uniformly across the three tasks. The current work suggests that the presence of a concurrent task during emotion processing affects amygdala reliability. The dissociation between spatial repeatability and reliability of mean amplitudes highlights the importance of taking into account both measures for a multidimensional assessment of the reliability of BOLD responses.

Keywords: amygdala reliability; face-matching task; physiological noise; spatial repeatability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Amygdala / blood supply
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Artifacts
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Facial Recognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult