Cluster Analysis of fMRI Data Using Dendrogram Sharpening

Larissa Stanberry, Rajesh Nandy, Dietmar Cordes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The major disadvantage of hierarchical clustering in fMRI data analysis is that an appropriate clustering threshold needs to be specified. Upon grouping data into a hierarchical tree, clusters are identified either by specifying their number or by choosing an appropriate inconsistency coefficient. Since the number of clusters present in the data is not known beforehand, even a slight variation of the inconsistency coefficient can significantly affect the results. To address these limitations, the dendrogram sharpening method, combined with a hierarchical clustering algorithm, is used in this work to identify modality regions, which are, in essence, areas of activation in the human brain during an fMRI experiment. The objective of the algorithm is to remove data from the low-density regions in order to obtain a clearer representation of the data structure. Once cluster cores are identified, the classification algorithm is run on voxels, set aside during sharpening, attempting to reassign them to the detected groups. When applied to a paced motor paradigm, task-related activations in the motor cortex are detected. In order to evaluate the performance of the algorithm, the obtained clusters are compared to standard activation maps where the expected hemodynamic response function is specified as a regressor. The obtained patterns of both methods have a high concordance (correlation coefficient = 0.91). Furthermore, the dependence of the clustering results on the sharpening parameters is investigated and recommendations on the appropriate choice of these variables are offered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-219
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Dendrogram sharpening
  • Hierarchical clustering
  • Single link
  • fMRI


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