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Title: Reliability and clinical utility of spatially constrained estimates of intrinsic functional networks from very short fMRI scans

Resting‐state functional network connectivity (rsFNC) has shown utility for identifying characteristic functional brain patterns in individuals with psychiatric and mood disorders, providing a promising avenue for biomarker development. However, several factors have precluded widespread clinical adoption of rsFNC diagnostics, namely a lack of standardized approaches for capturing comparable and reproducible imaging markers across individuals, as well as the disagreement on the amount of data required to robustly detect intrinsic connectivity networks (ICNs) and diagnostically relevant patterns of rsFNC at the individual subject level. Recently, spatially constrained independent component analysis (scICA) has been proposed as an automated method for extracting ICNs standardized to a chosen network template while still preserving individual variation. Leveraging the scICA methodology, which solves the former challenge of standardized neuroimaging markers, we investigate the latter challenge of identifying a minimally sufficient data length for clinical applications of resting‐state fMRI (rsfMRI). Using a dataset containing rsfMRI scans of individuals with schizophrenia and controls (M = 310) as well as simulated rsfMRI, we evaluated the robustness of ICN and rsFNC estimates at both the subject‐ and group‐level, as well as the performance of diagnostic classification, with respect to the length of the rsfMRI time course. We found individual estimates of ICNs and rsFNC from the full‐length (5 min) reference time course were sufficiently approximated with just 3–3.5 min of data (r = 0.85, 0.88, respectively), and significant differences in group‐average rsFNC could be sufficiently approximated with even less data, just 2 min (r = 0.86). These results from the shorter clinical data were largely consistent with the results from validation experiments using longer time series from both simulated (30 min) and real‐world (14 min) datasets, in which estimates of subject‐level FNC were reliably estimated with 3–5 min of data. Moreover, in the real‐world data we found rsFNC and ICN estimates generated across the full range of data lengths (0.5–14 min) more reliably matched those generated from the first 5 min of scan time than those generated from the last 5 min, suggesting increased influence of “late scan” noise factors such as fatigue or drowsiness may limit the reliability of FNC from data collected after 10+ min of scan time, further supporting the notion of shorter scans. Lastly, a diagnostic classification model trained on just 2 min of data retained 97%–98% classification accuracy relative to that of the full‐length reference model. Our results suggest that, when decomposed with scICA, rsfMRI scans of just 2–5 min show good clinical utility without significant loss of individual FNC information of longer scan lengths.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Human Brain Mapping
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 2620-2635
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    Evidence Level


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