Research: moving & shaking and brain imaging

Wylie et al. Functional magnetic resonance imaging movers and shakers: Does subject-movement cause sampling bias? Hum Brain Mapp. 2012 . doi: 10.1002/hbm.22150

Background: Head movement during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) degrades data quality. The effects of small movements can be ameliorated during data postprocessing, but data associated with severe movement is frequently discarded. In discarding these data, it is often assumed that head-movement is a source of random error, and that data can be discarded from subjects with severe movement without biasing the sample. 

Objective: This study tested this assumption by examining whether head movement was related to task difficulty and cognitive status among MSers. 

Methods: Thirty-four MSers were scanned while performing a working memory task with three levels of difficulty (the N-back task). Maximum movement (angle, shift) was estimated for each difficulty level. Cognitive status was assessed by combining performance on a working memory and processing speed task. 

Results: An interaction was found between task difficulty and cognitive status (high vs. low cognitive ability): there was a linear increase in movement as task difficulty increased that was larger among subjects with lower cognitive ability. Analyses of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) confirmed that increases in movement degraded data quality. Similar, though far smaller, effects were found in a cohort of healthy control (HC) subjects. 

Conclusion: Discarding data with severe movement artifact may bias MS samples such that only those with less-severe cognitive impairment are included in the analyses. However, even if such data are not discarded outright, subjects who move more (MS and HC) will contribute less to the group-level results because of degraded SNR. 

An MRI degraded by movement!

  “This is a very important study and shows you how bias can creep into scientific studies without you being aware of it. What can be done about it? I am not sue this problem is soluble. Any medical physicists out there looking for a problem to solve?”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: