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Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 Jul;36(7):2558-79. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22791. Epub 2015 Mar 28.

Reliability of an fMRI paradigm for emotional processing in a multisite longitudinal study.

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Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles, California.
Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
Department of Psychiatry Research, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York.
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, California.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of California, Irvine, California.
Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.


Multisite neuroimaging studies can facilitate the investigation of brain-related changes in many contexts, including patient groups that are relatively rare in the general population. Though multisite studies have characterized the reliability of brain activation during working memory and motor functional magnetic resonance imaging tasks, emotion processing tasks, pertinent to many clinical populations, remain less explored. A traveling participants study was conducted with eight healthy volunteers scanned twice on consecutive days at each of the eight North American Longitudinal Prodrome Study sites. Tests derived from generalizability theory showed excellent reliability in the amygdala ( Eρ2 = 0.82), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG; Eρ2 = 0.83), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; Eρ2 = 0.76), insula ( Eρ2 = 0.85), and fusiform gyrus ( Eρ2 = 0.91) for maximum activation and fair to excellent reliability in the amygdala ( Eρ2 = 0.44), IFG ( Eρ2 = 0.48), ACC ( Eρ2 = 0.55), insula ( Eρ2 = 0.42), and fusiform gyrus ( Eρ2 = 0.83) for mean activation across sites and test days. For the amygdala, habituation ( Eρ2 = 0.71) was more stable than mean activation. In a second investigation, data from 111 healthy individuals across sites were aggregated in a voxelwise, quantitative meta-analysis. When compared with a mixed effects model controlling for site, both approaches identified robust activation in regions consistent with expected results based on prior single-site research. Overall, regions central to emotion processing showed strong reliability in the traveling participants study and robust activation in the aggregation study. These results support the reliability of blood oxygen level-dependent signal in emotion processing areas across different sites and scanners and may inform future efforts to increase efficiency and enhance knowledge of rare conditions in the population through multisite neuroimaging paradigms.


amygdale; emotion; fMRI; meta-analysis; multisite; reliability

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