The risk of bias in denoising methods: Examples from neuroimaging

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5 Scopus citations


Experimental datasets are growing rapidly in size, scope, and detail, but the value of these datasets is limited by unwanted measurement noise. It is therefore tempting to apply analysis techniques that attempt to reduce noise and enhance signals of interest. In this paper, we draw attention to the possibility that denoising methods may introduce bias and lead to incorrect scientific inferences. To present our case, we first review the basic statistical concepts of bias and variance. Denoising techniques typically reduce variance observed across repeated measurements, but this can come at the expense of introducing bias to the average expected outcome. We then conduct three simple simulations that provide concrete examples of how bias may manifest in everyday situations. These simulations reveal several findings that may be surprising and counterintuitive: (i) different methods can be equally effective at reducing variance but some incur bias while others do not, (ii) identifying methods that better recover ground truth does not guarantee the absence of bias, (iii) bias can arise even if one has specific knowledge of properties of the signal of interest. We suggest that researchers should consider and possibly quantify bias before deploying denoising methods on important research data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0270895
JournalPloS one
Issue number7 July
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Kendrick Kay. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Bias
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Neuroimaging
  • Research Personnel

Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) tags

  • IRP

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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