Applying a dynamic approach to reveal systematic variance in fMRI studies
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Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) studies have advanced our understanding of brain function, but have also been restricted by methodological difficulties, including reliability. Reliability difficulties in fMRI studies may, in part, stem from the approach currently used to interpret the results. This study examined an alternative approach for interpreting fMRI results that may improve its reliability. The proposed dynamic approach assumes that systematic cognitive processes, such as practice and fatigue, affect neural activity within a single scanning session, and can decrease reliability. A series of experiments investigated between-group practice effects, as well as practice and fatigue effects over time on a spatial working memory task. Practice demonstrated between-group differences in neural activity and continued to affect activation across runs. Fatigue was not found to significantly affect neural activity. This study emphasizes the importance of attending to dynamic changes in FMRI and their effects on replicability in functional imaging.