A recent conversation on Twitter led to the suggestion that someone compile a list of physiological effects of concern for BOLD. That is, a list of potentially confounding physiological changes that could arise sympathetically in an fMRI experiment, such as altered heart rate due to the stress of a task, or that could exist as a systematic difference between groups. What follows is the result of a PubMed literature search (mostly just the abstracts) where I have tried to identify either recent review articles or original research that can be used as starting points for learning more about candidate effects. Hopefully you can then determine whether a particular factor might be of concern for your experiment. This is definitely not a comprehensive list of all literature pertaining to all potential physiological confounds in fMRI, and I apologize if your very important contribution didn’t make it into the post. Also, please note that I am not a physiologist so if I go seriously off piste in interpreting the literature, please forgive me and then correct my course. I would like to hear from you (comments below, or via Twitter) if I have omitted critical references or effects from the list, or if I have misinterpreted something. As far as possible I’ve tried to restrict the review to work in humans unless there was nothing appropriate, in which case I’ve included some animal studies if I think they are directly relevant. A final caution before we begin. It occurs to me that some people will take this list as (further) proof that all fMRI experiments are hopelessly flawed and will use it as ammunition. At the other extreme there will be people who see this list as baseless scare mongering. How you use the list is entirely up to you, but my intent is to provide cautious fMRI scientists with a mechanism to (re)consider potential physiologic confounds in their experiments, and perhaps stimulate the collection of parallel data that might add power to those experiments. (This article first appeared as a blog post on practicalfmri.blogspot.com.)
Twitter is a useful medium for the exchange of ideas, but it is not well suited to a thorough exposition of complex topics. In one recent exchange, I engaged author and journalist Peter Hitchens (@clarkemicah) on the relative harms of alcohol and cannabis, a discussion he later dissected in his blog (http://dailym.ai/13Dc1Rv). Having repeatedly attempted without success to post a reply on his blog, I have elected to do so here.
An experiment in Post-Proposal Peer Review (PPrPR) The grant proposal which follows was submitted to the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on January 06 2015. We are making the proposal publicly available, as an experiment in online peer review of a grant proposal (rather than a research paper), via The Winnower and PubPeer as both sites have a fundamental commitment to open debate and discussion of academic research and ideas. The PI (PM) will blog about the progress (and ultimate fate) of the proposal at the Institute of Physics’ physicsfocus blog. Details of the format of EPSRC proposals are available here. The proposal is structured according to these guidelines (although we have forgone the requirements re. font size/type so as to produce a document in line with The Winnower’s ‘style file’). We have not provided detailed information on costings but an edited version of the “Justification of Resources” section of the proposal is included. The sections below are taken from what is known as the Joint-Electronic Submission (Je-S) form associated with the grant, the detailed Case for Support, followed by the Pathways to Impact statement, and the Justification of Resources section.