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Approaches for the analysis of statistical parametric maps (SPMs) can be crudely grouped into three main categories in which different philosophies are applied to delineate activated regions. These being type I error control thresholding, false discovery rate (FDR) control thresholding and posterior probability thresholding. To better understand the properties of these main approaches, we carried out a simulation study to compare the approaches as they would be used on real data sets. Using default settings, we find that posterior probability thresholding is the most powerful approach, and type I error control thresholding provides the lowest levels of type I error. False discovery rate control thresholding performs in between the other approaches for both these criteria, although for some parameter settings this approach can approximate the performance of posterior probability thresholding. Based on these results, we discuss the relative merits of the three approaches in an attempt to decide upon an optimal approach. We conclude that viewing the problem of delineating areas of activation as a classification problem provides a highly interpretable framework for comparing the methods. Within this framework, we highlight the role of the loss function, which explicitly penalizes the types of errors that may occur in a given analysis.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1203 - 1213


Bayes Theorem, Computer Simulation, Data Interpretation, Statistical, Differential Threshold, Linear Models, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Probability