Test–retest reliability of a finger-tapping fMRI task in a healthy population

Florian Wüthrich*, Stephanie Lefebvre, Niluja Nadesalingam, Jessica A. Bernard, Vijay A. Mittal, Stewart A. Shankman, Sebastian Walther

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Measuring brain activity during functional MRI (fMRI) tasks is one of the main tools to identify brain biomarkers of disease or neural substrates associated with specific symptoms. However, identifying correct biomarkers relies on reliable measures. Recently, poor reliability was reported for task-based fMRI measures. The present study aimed to demonstrate the reliability of a finger-tapping fMRI task across two sessions in healthy participants. Thirty-one right-handed healthy participants aged 18–60 years took part in two MRI sessions 3 weeks apart during which we acquired finger-tapping task-fMRI. We examined the overlap of activations between sessions using Dice similarity coefficients, assessing their location and extent. Then, we compared amplitudes calculating intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) in three sets of regions of interest (ROIs) in the motor network: literature-based ROIs (10-mm-radius spheres centred on peaks of an activation likelihood estimation), anatomical ROIs (regions as defined in an atlas) and ROIs based on conjunction analyses (superthreshold voxels in both sessions). Finger tapping consistently activated expected regions, for example, left primary sensorimotor cortices, premotor area and right cerebellum. We found good-to-excellent overlap of activations for most contrasts (Dice coefficients:.54–.82). Across time, ICCs showed large variability in all ROI sets (.04–.91). However, ICCs in most ROIs indicated fair-to-good reliability (mean =.52). The least specific contrast consistently yielded the best reliability. Overall, the finger-tapping task showed good spatial overlap and fair reliability of amplitudes on group level. Although caution is warranted in interpreting correlations of activations with other variables, identification of activated regions in response to a task and their between-group comparisons are still valid and important modes of analysis in neuroimaging to find population tendencies and differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-90
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • DSC
  • Dice similarity coefficient
  • ICC
  • intraclass correlation coefficient
  • motor task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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