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An empirical evaluation of functional alignment using inter-subject decoding

By Thomas Bazeille, Elizabeth DuPre, Hugo Richard, Jean-Baptiste Poline, Bertrand Thirion

Posted 08 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.07.415000

Inter-individual variability in the functional organization of the brain presents a major obstacle to identifying generalizable neural coding principles. Functional alignment---a class of methods that matches subjects' neural signals based on their functional similarity---is a promising strategy for addressing this variability. To date, however, a range of functional alignment methods have been proposed and their relative performance is still unclear. In this work, we benchmark five functional alignment methods for inter-subject decoding on four publicly available datasets. Specifically, we consider three existing methods: piecewise Procrustes, searchlight Procrustes, and piecewise Optimal Transport. We also introduce and benchmark two new extensions of functional alignment methods: piecewise Shared Response Modelling (SRM), and intra-subject alignment. We find that functional alignment generally improves inter-subject decoding accuracy though the best performing method depends on the research context. Specifically, SRM and Optimal Transport perform well at both the region-of-interest level of analysis as well as at the whole-brain scale when aggregated through a piecewise scheme. We also benchmark the computational efficiency of each of the surveyed methods, providing insight into their usability and scalability. Taking inter-subject decoding accuracy as a quantification of inter-subject similarity, our results support the use of functional alignment to improve inter-subject comparisons in the face of variable structure-function organization. We provide open implementations of all methods used.

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