What Is the Test-Retest Reliability of Common Task-Functional MRI Measures? New Empirical Evidence and a Meta-Analysis

Maxwell L. Elliott, Annchen R. Knodt, David Ireland, Meriwether L. Morris, Richie Poulton, Sandhya Ramrakha, Maria L. Sison, Terrie E. Moffitt, Avshalom Caspi, Ahmad R. Hariri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Identifying brain biomarkers of disease risk is a growing priority in neuroscience. The ability to identify meaningful biomarkers is limited by measurement reliability; unreliable measures are unsuitable for predicting clinical outcomes. Measuring brain activity using task functional MRI (fMRI) is a major focus of biomarker development; however, the reliability of task fMRI has not been systematically evaluated. We present converging evidence demonstrating poor reliability of task-fMRI measures. First, a meta-analysis of 90 experiments (N = 1,008) revealed poor overall reliability—mean intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) =.397. Second, the test-retest reliabilities of activity in a priori regions of interest across 11 common fMRI tasks collected by the Human Connectome Project (N = 45) and the Dunedin Study (N = 20) were poor (ICCs =.067–.485). Collectively, these findings demonstrate that common task-fMRI measures are not currently suitable for brain biomarker discovery or for individual-differences research. We review how this state of affairs came to be and highlight avenues for improving task-fMRI reliability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-806
Number of pages15
JournalPsychological Science
Volume31
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • cognitive neuroscience
  • individual differences
  • neuroimaging
  • statistical analysis

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