Test-retest and between-site reliability in a multicenter fMRI study

Lee Friedman, Hal Stern, Gregory G. Brown, Daniel H. Mathalon, Jessica Turner, Gary H. Glover, Randy L. Gollub, John Lauriello, Kelvin O. Lim, Tyrone Cannon, Douglas N. Greve, Henry Jeremy Bockholt, Aysenil Belger, Bryon Mueller, Michael J. Doty, Jianchun He, William Wells, Padhraic Smyth, Steve Pieper, Seyoung KimMarek Kubicki, Mark Vangel, Steven G. Potkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Scopus citations


In the present report, estimates of test-retest and between-site reliability of fMRI assessments were produced in the context of a multicenter fMRI reliability study (FBIRN Phase 1, www.nbirn.net). Five subjects were scanned on 10 MRI scanners on two occasions. The fMRI task was a simple block design sensorimotor task. The impulse response functions to the stimulation block were derived using an FIR-deconvolution analysis with FMRISTAT. Six functionally-derived ROIs covering the visual, auditory and motor cortices, created from a prior analysis, were used. Two dependent variables were compared: percent signal change and contrast-to-noise-ratio. Reliability was assessed with intraclass correlation coefficients derived from a variance components analysis. Test-retest reliability was high, but initially, between-site reliability was low, indicating a strong contribution from site and site-by-subject variance. However, a number of factors that can markedly improve between-site reliability were uncovered, including increasing the size of the ROIs, adjusting for smoothness differences, and inclusion of additional runs. By employing multiple steps, between-site reliability for 3T scanners was increased by 123%. Dropping one site at a time and assessing reliability can be a useful method of assessing the sensitivity of the results to particular sites. These findings should provide guidance to others on the best practices for future multicenter studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)958-972
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • FMRI
  • Intraclass correlation coefficient
  • Multicenter
  • Reproducibility
  • Test-retest


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