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The unreliable influence of multivariate noise normalization on the reliability of neural dissimilarity

  • Ritchie, J Brendan;
  • Masson, Haemy Lee;
  • Bracci, Stefania;
  • Op de Beeck, Hans P; 29058;
Publication Date
Nov 02, 2021
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Representational similarity analysis (RSA) is a key element in the multivariate pattern analysis toolkit. The central construct of the method is the representational dissimilarity matrix (RDM), which can be generated for datasets from different modalities (neuroimaging, behavior, and computational models) and directly correlated in order to evaluate their second-order similarity. Given the inherent noisiness of neuroimaging signals it is important to evaluate the reliability of neuroimaging RDMs in order to determine whether these comparisons are meaningful. Recently, multivariate noise normalization (NNM) has been proposed as a widely applicable method for boosting signal estimates for RSA, regardless of choice of dissimilarity metrics, based on evidence that the analysis improves the within-subject reliability of RDMs (Guggenmos et al. 2018; Walther et al. 2016). We revisited this issue with three fMRI datasets and evaluated the impact of NNM on within- and between-subject reliability and RSA effect sizes using multiple dissimilarity metrics. We also assessed its impact across regions of interest from the same dataset, its interaction with spatial smoothing, and compared it to GLMdenoise, which has also been proposed as a method that improves signal estimates for RSA (Charest et al. 2018). We found that across these tests the impact of NNM was highly variable, as also seems to be the case for other analysis choices. Overall, we suggest being conservative before adding steps and complexities to the (pre)processing pipeline for RSA. / status: published

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