Reliability of a functional magnetic resonance imaging task of emotional conflict in healthy participants Academic Article uri icon

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  • Task-based functional neuroimaging methods are increasingly being used to identify biomarkers of treatment response in psychiatric disorders. To facilitate meaningful interpretation of neural correlates of tasks and their potential changes with treatment over time, understanding the reliability of the blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal of such tasks is essential. We assessed test-retest reliability of an emotional conflict task in healthy participants collected as part of the Canadian Biomarker Integration Network in Depression. Data for 36 participants, scanned at three time points (weeks 0, 2, and 8) were analyzed, and intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC) were used to quantify reliability. We observed moderate reliability (median ICC values between 0.5 and 0.6), within occipital, parietal, and temporal regions, specifically for conditions of lower cognitive complexity, that is, face, congruent or incongruent trials. For these conditions, activation was also observed within frontal and sub-cortical regions, however, their reliability was poor (median ICC < 0.2). Clinically relevant prognostic markers based on task-based fMRI require high predictive accuracy at an individual level. For this to be achieved, reliability of BOLD responses needs to be high. We have shown that reliability of the BOLD response to an emotional conflict task in healthy individuals is moderate. Implications of these findings to further inform studies of treatment effects and biomarker discovery are discussed.


  • Hassel, Stefanie
  • Sharma, Gulshan B
  • Alders, Gésine L
  • Davis, Andrew D
  • Arnott, Stephen R
  • Frey, Benicio
  • Hall, Geoffrey
  • Harris, Jacqueline K
  • Lam, Raymond W
  • Milev, Roumen
  • Müller, Daniel J
  • Rotzinger, Susan
  • Zamyadi, Mojdeh
  • Kennedy, Sidney H
  • Strother, Stephen C
  • MacQueen, Glenda M

publication date

  • April 15, 2020