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Centre for Mathematical Physics and Stochastics
Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Aarhus

Funded by The Danish National Research Foundation

MPS-RR 2001-9
March 2001

A Stochastic Geometry Model for Functional Magnetic Resonance Images


Niels Væver Hartvig


In functional magnetic resonance imaging, spatial activation patterns are commonly estimated using a non-parametric smoothing approach. Significant peaks or clusters in the smoothed image are subsequently identified by testing the null hypothesis of lack of activation in every volume element of the scans. A weakness of this approach is the lack of a model for the activation pattern; this makes it difficult to determine the variance of estimates, to test specific neuroscientific hypotheses or to incorporate prior information about the brain area under study in the analysis. These issues may be addressed by formulating explicit spatial models for the activation and using simulation methods for inference. We present one such approach, based on a marked point process prior. Informally, one may think of the points as centres of activation, and the marks as parameters describing the shape and area of the surrounding cluster. We present an MCMC algorithm for making inference in the model, and compare the approach with a traditional non-parametric method, using both simulated and visual stimulation data. Finally, we discuss relevant extensions of the model and the inferential framework to account for non-stationary responses and spatio-temporal correlation.

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This paper has now been published in To appear in Scandinavian Journal of Statistics.