Standardized Brain MRI Acquisition Protocols Improve Statistical Power in Multicenter Quantitative Morphometry Studies

Allan George, Ruben Kuzniecky, Henry Rusinek, Heath R. Pardoe, for the Human Epilepsy Project Investigators

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1 Citation (Scopus)


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: In this study, we used power analysis to calculate required sample sizes to detect group-level changes in quantitative neuroanatomical estimates derived from MRI scans obtained from multiple imaging centers. Sample size estimates were derived from (i) standardized 3T image acquisition protocols and (ii) nonstandardized clinically acquired images obtained at both 1.5 and 3T as part of the multicenter Human Epilepsy Project. Sample size estimates were compared to assess the benefit of standardizing acquisition protocols. METHODS: Cortical thickness, hippocampal volume, and whole brain volume were estimated from whole brain T1-weighted MRI scans processed using Freesurfer v6.0. Sample sizes required to detect a range of effect sizes were calculated using (i) standard t-test based power analysis methods and (ii) a nonparametric bootstrap approach. RESULTS: A total of 32 participants were included in our analyses, aged 29.9 ± 12.62 years. Standard deviation estimates were lower for all quantitative neuroanatomical metrics when assessed using standardized protocols. Required sample sizes per group to detect a given effect size were markedly reduced when using standardized protocols, particularly for cortical thickness changes <.2 mm and hippocampal volume changes <10%. CONCLUSIONS: The use of standardized protocols yielded up to a five-fold reduction in required sample sizes to detect disease-related neuroanatomical changes, and is particularly beneficial for detecting subtle effects. Standardizing image acquisition protocols across scanners prior to commencing a study is a valuable approach to increase the statistical power of multicenter MRI studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-133
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroimaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain morphometry
  • multisite studies
  • power analysis
  • quantitative neuroanatomy

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