The utility and success of resting-state functional connectivity MRI (rs-fcMRI) depend critically on the reliability of this technique and the extent to which it accurately reflects neuronal function. One challenge is that rs-fcMRI is influenced by various sources of noise, particularly cardiac- and respiratory-related signal variations. The goal of the current study was to evaluate the impact of various physiological noise correction techniques, specifically those that use independent cardiac and respiration measures, on the test-retest reliability of rs-fcMRI. A group of 25 subjects were each scanned at three time points--two within the same imaging session and another 2-3 months later. Physiological noise corrections accounted for significant variance, particularly in blood vessels, sagittal sinus, cerebrospinal fluid, and gray matter. The fraction of variance explained by each of these corrections was highly similar within subjects between sessions, but variable between subjects. Physiological corrections generally reduced intrasubject (between-session) variability, but also significantly reduced intersubject variability, and thus reduced the test-retest reliability of estimating individual differences in functional connectivity. However, based on known nonneuronal mechanisms by which cardiac pulsation and respiration can lead to MRI signal changes, and the observation that the physiological noise itself is highly stable within individuals, removal of this noise will likely increase the validity of measured connectivity differences. Furthermore, removal of these fluctuations will lead to better estimates of average or group maps of connectivity. It is therefore recommended that studies apply physiological noise corrections but also be mindful of potential correlations with measures of interest.
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- functional connectivity
- physiological noise
- resting state