Functional MRI of auditory verbal working memory: long-term reproducibility analysis


Xingchang Wei, Seung-Schik Yoo, Chandlee C Dickey, Kelly H Zou, Charles RG Guttmann, and Lawrence P Panych. 2004. “Functional MRI of auditory verbal working memory: long-term reproducibility analysis.” Neuroimage, 21, 3, Pp. 1000-8.


Although functional MRI (fMRI) has shown to be a tool with great potential to study the normal and diseased human brain, the large variability in the detected hemodynamic responses across sessions and across subjects hinders a wider application. To investigate the long-term reproducibility of fMRI activation of verbal working memory (WM), eight normal subjects performed an auditory version of the 2-back verbal WM task while fMRI images were acquired. The experiment was repeated nine times with the same settings for image acquisition and fMRI task. Data were analyzed using SPM99 program. Single-session activation maps and multi-subject session-specific activation maps were generated. Regions of interest (ROIs) associated to specific components of verbal WM were defined based on the voxels' coordinates in Talairach space. Visual observation of the multi-subject activation maps showed similar activation patterns, and quantitative analysis showed small coefficients of variance of activation within ROIs over time, suggesting small longitudinal variability of activation. Visual observation of the activation maps of individual sessions demonstrated striking variation of activation across sessions and across subjects, and quantitative analysis demonstrated larger contribution from between-subject variation to overall variation than that from within-subject variation. We concluded that by multi-subject analysis of data from a relatively small number of subjects, reasonably reproducible activation for the 2-back verbal WM paradigm can be achieved. The level of reproducibility encourages the application of this fMRI paradigm to the evaluation of cognitive changes in future investigations. The quantitative estimation of the proportions of within-subject and between-subject variabilities in the overall variability may be helpful for the design of future studies.