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Front Physiol. 2012 Nov 15;3:417. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00417. eCollection 2012.

Pitfalls in Fractal Time Series Analysis: fMRI BOLD as an Exemplary Case.

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Institute of Human Physiology and Clinical Experimental Research, Semmelweis University Budapest, Hungary ; Diagnostic Radiology, Yale University New Haven, CT, USA.


This article will be positioned on our previous work demonstrating the importance of adhering to a carefully selected set of criteria when choosing the suitable method from those available ensuring its adequate performance when applied to real temporal signals, such as fMRI BOLD, to evaluate one important facet of their behavior, fractality. Earlier, we have reviewed on a range of monofractal tools and evaluated their performance. Given the advance in the fractal field, in this article we will discuss the most widely used implementations of multifractal analyses, too. Our recommended flowchart for the fractal characterization of spontaneous, low frequency fluctuations in fMRI BOLD will be used as the framework for this article to make certain that it will provide a hands-on experience for the reader in handling the perplexed issues of fractal analysis. The reason why this particular signal modality and its fractal analysis has been chosen was due to its high impact on today's neuroscience given it had powerfully emerged as a new way of interpreting the complex functioning of the brain (see "intrinsic activity"). The reader will first be presented with the basic concepts of mono and multifractal time series analyses, followed by some of the most relevant implementations, characterization by numerical approaches. The notion of the dichotomy of fractional Gaussian noise and fractional Brownian motion signal classes and their impact on fractal time series analyses will be thoroughly discussed as the central theme of our application strategy. Sources of pitfalls and way how to avoid them will be identified followed by a demonstration on fractal studies of fMRI BOLD taken from the literature and that of our own in an attempt to consolidate the best practice in fractal analysis of empirical fMRI BOLD signals mapped throughout the brain as an exemplary case of potentially wide interest.


brain; fMRI BOLD; fractals; monofractals; multifractals; numerical testing; time series analysis

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