Investigations of between-person variability are enjoying a recent resurgence in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research. Several recent studies have found persistent between-person differences in blood-oxygenated-level dependent (BOLD) activation patterns and resting-state functional connectivity. Conflicting findings have been reported regarding the extent to which (a) between-person or (b) within-person cognitive state differences explain differences in BOLD activation patterns. These discrepancies may arise due to statistical analysis choices, parcellation resolution, and limited sampling of task-fMRI datasets. We attempt to address these issues in a large-scale analysis of several task-fMRI paradigms. Using a novel application of multivariate distance matrix regression, we examine between-person and task-condition variability estimates across varying levels of “resolution”, from a coarse region-of-interest level to the vertex-level, and across different distance metrics. These analyses revealed that under most circumstances, differences in task conditions explained a greater amount of variance in activation map differences than between-person differences. However, this finding was reversed when comparing activation maps at a “high-resolution” vertex level. More generally, we observed that when moving from “low” to “high” resolutions, the variance explained by between-person differences increased while variance explained by task conditions decreased. We further analyzed the relationships among subject-level activation maps across all task-conditions using an unsupervised clustering approach and identified a superordinate task structure. This structure went beyond conventional task labels and highlighted those experimental manipulations across task conditions that produce contrasting versus similar whole-brain activation patterns. Overall, these analyses suggest that the question of the subject- versus task-effects on BOLD activation patterns is nontrivial, and depends on the comparison “resolution,” choice of distance metric, and the coding of task-conditions.
- individual differences
- intersubject variability
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Clinical Neurology