Computational approaches have great potential for moving neuroscience toward mechanistic models of the functional integration among brain regions. Dynamic causal modeling (DCM) offers a promising framework for inferring the effective connectivity among brain regions and thus unraveling the neural mechanisms of both normal cognitive function and psychiatric disorders. While the benefit of such approaches depends heavily on their reliability, systematic analyses of the within-subject stability are rare. Here, we present a thorough investigation of the test-retest reliability of an fMRI paradigm for DCM analysis dedicated to unraveling intra- and interhemispheric integration among the core regions of the face perception network. First, we examined the reliability of face-specific BOLD activity in 25 healthy volunteers, who performed a face perception paradigm in two separate sessions. We found good to excellent reliability of BOLD activity within the DCM-relevant regions. Second, we assessed the stability of effective connectivity among these regions by analyzing the reliability of Bayesian model selection and model parameter estimation in DCM. Reliability was excellent for the negative free energy and good for model parameter estimation, when restricting the analysis to parameters with substantial effect sizes. Third, even when the experiment was shortened, reliability of BOLD activity and DCM results dropped only slightly as a function of the length of the experiment. This suggests that the face perception paradigm presented here provides reliable estimates for both conventional activation and effective connectivity measures. We conclude this paper with an outlook on potential clinical applications of the paradigm for studying psychiatric disorders.
Test-retest reliability of effective connectivity in the face perception network. Frässle S, Paulus FM, Krach S, Jansen A. Hum Brain Mapp. 2016 Feb;37(2):730-44. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23061. Epub 2015 Nov 27.