Estimations of the weather effects on brain functions using functional MRI: A cautionary note

Xin Di, Marie Woelfer, Simone Kühn, Zhiguo Zhang, Bharat B. Biswal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The influences of environmental factors such as weather on the human brain are still largely unknown. A few neuroimaging studies have demonstrated seasonal effects, but were limited by their cross-sectional design or sample sizes. Most importantly, the stability of the MRI scanner has not been taken into account, which may also be affected by environments. In the current study, we analyzed longitudinal resting-state functional MRI (fMRI) data from eight individuals, where they were scanned over months to years. We applied machine learning regression to use different resting-state parameters, including the amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (ALFF), regional homogeneity (ReHo), and functional connectivity matrix, to predict different weather and environmental parameters. For careful control, the raw EPI and the anatomical images were also used for predictions. We first found that daylight length and air temperatures could be reliably predicted with cross-validation using the resting-state parameters. However, similar prediction accuracies could also be achieved by using one frame of EPI image, and even higher accuracies could be achieved by using the segmented or raw anatomical images. Finally, the signals outside of the brain in the anatomical images and signals in phantom scans could also achieve higher prediction accuracies, suggesting that the predictability may be due to the baseline signals of the MRI scanner. After all, we did not identify detectable influences of weather on brain functions other than the influences on the baseline signals of MRI scanners. The results highlight the difficulty of studying long-term effects using MRI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3346-3356
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Volume43
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

Keywords

  • daylight length
  • environmental effects on the brain
  • machine learning regression
  • resting-state
  • scanner stability
  • temperature
  • weather

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