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Comparing Functional (PET) Images: The Assessment Of Significant Change

K. J. Friston, C. D. Frith, P. F. Liddle, R. S. J. Frackowiak

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Statistical parametric maps (SPMs) are potentially powerful ways of localizing differences in regional cerebral activity. This potential is limited by uncertainties in assessing the significance of these maps. In this report, we describe an approach that may partially resolve this issue. A distinction is made between using SPMs as images of change significance and using them to identify foci of significant change. In the first case, the SPM can be reported nonselectively as a single mathematical object with its omnibus significance. Alternatively, the SPM constitutes a large number of repeated measures over the brain. To reject the null hypothesis, that no change has occurred at a specific location, a threshold adjustment must be made that accounts for the large number of comparisons made. This adjustment is shown to depend on the SPM's smoothness. Smoothness can be determined empirically and be used to calculate a threshold required to identify significant foci. The approach models the SPM as a stationary stochastic process. The theory and applications are illustrated using uniform phantom images and data from a verbal fluency activation study of four normal subjects.