A Critical, Event-Related Appraisal of Denoising in Resting-State fMRI Studies

Cereb Cortex. 2020 Jun 4;bhaa139. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa139. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

This article advances two parallel lines of argument about resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals, one empirical and one conceptual. The empirical line creates a four-part organization of the text: (1) head motion and respiration commonly cause distinct, major, unwanted influences (artifacts) in fMRI signals; (2) head motion and respiratory changes are, confoundingly, both related to psychological and clinical and biological variables of interest; (3) many fMRI denoising strategies fail to identify and remove one or the other kind of artifact; and (4) unremoved artifact, due to correlations of artifacts with variables of interest, renders studies susceptible to identifying variance of noninterest as variance of interest. Arising from these empirical observations is a conceptual argument: that an event-related approach to task-free scans, targeting common behaviors during scanning, enables fundamental distinctions among the kinds of signals present in the data, information which is vital to understanding the effects of denoising procedures. This event-related perspective permits statements like "Event X is associated with signals A, B, and C, each with particular spatial, temporal, and signal decay properties". Denoising approaches can then be tailored, via performance in known events, to permit or suppress certain kinds of signals based on their desirability.

Keywords: censoring; functional connectivity; global signal; multiecho; validity.