Head motion: the dirty little secret of neuroimaging in psychiatry

Head motion: the dirty little secret of neuroimaging in psychiatry

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J Psychiatry Neurosci 2019;44(1):62-68

Carolina Makowski, BSc; Martin Lepage, PhD; Alan C. Evans, PhD

Psychiatry is at a crossroads when choosing final samples for analysis of neuroimaging data. Many patient populations exhibit significantly increased motion in the scanner compared with healthy controls, suggesting that more patients would need to be excluded to obtain a clean sample. However, this need is often overshadowed by the extensive amount of time and effort required to recruit these valuable and uncommon samples. This commentary sheds light on the impact of motion on imaging studies, drawing examples from psychiatric patient samples to better understand how head motion can confound interpretation of clinically oriented questions. We discuss the impact of even subtle motion artifacts on the interpretation of results as well as how different levels of stringency in quality control can affect findings within nearly identical samples. We also summarize recent initiatives toward harmonization of quality-control procedures as well as tools to prospectively and retrospectively correct for motion artifacts.


Submitted Feb. 9, 2018; Revised May 7, 2018; Revised June 5, 2018; Accepted June 6, 2018; Published online Aug. 14, 2018

Acknowledgements: C. Makowski is supported by a doctoral graduate award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR; CGS-D) and funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, awarded to McGill University for the Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives Initiative. M. Lepage and A.C. Evans are supported by a James McGill Professorship at McGill University and hold operating grants from CIHR. The authors thank members of the McGill Centre for Integrative Neuroscience, past and present, for valuable discussions that contributed to some of the ideas presented in this manuscript.

Affiliations: From the McGill Centre for Integrative Neuroscience, McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Que., Canada (Makowski, Evans); and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Verdun, Que., Canada (Makowski, Lepage).

Competing interests: A.C. Evans has received consulting fees from Biospective. No other competing interests declared.

Funding: The funding sources had no role in the writing of this article.

Contributors: This commentary was conceptualized by all authors. C. Makowski wrote the initial versions of the manuscript, and M. Lepage and A.C. Evans revised the content of the article. All authors approved the final version to be published and can certify that no other individuals not listed as authors have made substantial contributions to the paper.

DOI: 10.1503/jpn.180022

Correspondence to: C. Makowski, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2B4; carolina.makowski@mail.mcgill.ca