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How to avoid mismodelling in GLM-based fMRI data analysis: cross-validated Bayesian model selection

Soch, J., Haynes, J-D. & Allefeld, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1037-2735 (2016). How to avoid mismodelling in GLM-based fMRI data analysis: cross-validated Bayesian model selection. NeuroImage, 141, pp. 469-489. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.07.047


Voxel-wise general linear models (GLMs) are a standard approach for analyzing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. An advantage of GLMs is that they are flexible and can be adapted to the requirements of many different data sets. However, the specification of first-level GLMs leaves the researcher with many degrees of freedom which is problematic given recent efforts to ensure robust and reproducible fMRI data analysis. Formal model comparisons that allow a systematic assessment of GLMs are only rarely performed. On the one hand, too simple models may underfit data and leave real effects undiscovered. On the other hand, too complex models might overfit data and also reduce statistical power. Here we present a systematic approach termed cross-validated Bayesian model selection (cvBMS) that allows to decide which GLM best describes a given fMRI data set. Importantly, our approach allows for non-nested model comparison, i.e. comparing more than two models that do not just differ by adding one or more regressors. It also allows for spatially heterogeneous modelling, i.e. using different models for different parts of the brain. We validate our method using simulated data and demonstrate potential applications to empirical data. The increased use of model comparison and model selection should increase the reliability of GLM results and reproducibility of fMRI studies.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © Elsevier 2016. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Publisher Keywords: fMRI-based neuroimaging, mass-univariate GLM, model misspecifcation, underfitting versus overfitting, cross-validation, Bayesian model selection
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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