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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e49847. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049847. Epub 2012 Dec 5.

Age-related differences in test-retest reliability in resting-state brain functional connectivity.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) has emerged as a powerful tool for investigating brain functional connectivity (FC). Research in recent years has focused on assessing the reliability of FC across younger subjects within and between scan-sessions. Test-retest reliability in resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) has not yet been examined in older adults. In this study, we investigated age-related differences in reliability and stability of RSFC across scans. In addition, we examined how global signal regression (GSR) affects RSFC reliability and stability. Three separate resting-state scans from 29 younger adults (18-35 yrs) and 26 older adults (55-85 yrs) were obtained from the International Consortium for Brain Mapping (ICBM) dataset made publically available as part of the 1000 Functional Connectomes project 92 regions of interest (ROIs) with 5 cubic mm radius, derived from the default, cingulo-opercular, fronto-parietal and sensorimotor networks, were previously defined based on a recent study. Mean time series were extracted from each of the 92 ROIs from each scan and three matrices of z-transformed correlation coefficients were created for each subject, which were then used for evaluation of multi-scan reliability and stability. The young group showed higher reliability of RSFC than the old group with GSR (p-value = 0.028) and without GSR (p-value <0.001). Both groups showed a high degree of multi-scan stability of RSFC and no significant differences were found between groups. By comparing the test-retest reliability of RSFC with and without GSR across scans, we found significantly higher proportion of reliable connections in both groups without GSR, but decreased stability. Our results suggest that aging is associated with reduced reliability of RSFC which itself is highly stable within-subject across scans for both groups, and that GSR reduces the overall reliability but increases the stability in both age groups and could potentially alter group differences of RSFC.

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