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Int J Neurosci. 2012 Sep;122(9):483-93. doi: 10.3109/00207454.2012.678446. Epub 2012 Apr 30.

Functional neuroimaging of treatment effects in psychiatry: methodological challenges and recommendations.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, 101 Manning Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7255, USA.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has helped to elucidate the neurobiological bases of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders by localizing etiologically-relevant aberrations in brain function. Functional MRI also has shown great promise to help understand potential mechanisms of action of effective treatments for a range of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and autism. However, the use of fMRI to probe intervention effects in psychiatry is associated with unique methodological considerations, including the psychometric properties of repeated fMRI scans, how to assess potential relations between the effects of an intervention on symptoms and on specific brain activation patterns, and how to best make causal inferences about intervention effects on brain function. Additionally, the study of treatment effects in neurodevelopmental disorders presents additional unique challenges related to brain maturation, analysis methods, and the potential for motion artifacts. We review these methodological considerations and provide recommendations for best practices for each of these topics.

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