Deep Generative Analysis for Task-Based Functional MRI Experiments
While functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) remains one of the most widespread and important methods in basic and clinical neuroscience, the data it produces—time series of brain volumes—continue to pose daunting analysis challenges. The current standard (“mass univariate”) approach involves constructing a matrix of task regressors, fitting a separate general linear model at each volume pixel (“voxel”), computing test statistics for each model, and correcting for false positives post hoc using bootstrap or other resampling methods. Despite its simplicity, this approach has enjoyed great success over the last two decades due to: 1) its ability to produce effect maps highlighting brain regions whose activity significantly correlates with a given variable of interest; and 2) its modeling of experimental effects as separable and thus easily interpretable. However, this approach suffers from several well-known drawbacks, namely: inaccurate assumptions of linearity and noise Gaussianity; a limited ability to capture individual effects and variability; and difficulties in performing proper statistical testing secondary to independently fitting voxels. In this work, we adopt a different approach, modeling entire volumes directly in a manner that increases model flexibility while preserving interpretability. Specifically, we use a generalized additive model (GAM) in which the effects of each regressor remain separable, the product of a spatial map produced by a variational autoencoder and a (potentially nonlinear) gain modeled by a covariate-specific Gaussian Process. The result is a model that yields group-level effect maps comparable or superior to the ones obtained with standard fMRI analysis software while also producing single-subject effect maps capturing individual differences. This suggests that generative models with a decomposable structure might offer a more flexible alternative for the analysis of task-based fMRI data.
de Albuquerque, D; Goffinet, J; Wright, R; Pearson, J
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