Optimization of contrast detection power with probabilistic behavioral information

Dietmar Cordes, Grit Herzmann, Rajesh Nandy, Tim Curran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Recent progress in the experimental design for event-related fMRI experiments made it possible to find the optimal stimulus sequence for maximum contrast detection power using a genetic algorithm. In this study, a novel algorithm is proposed for optimization of contrast detection power by including probabilistic behavioral information, based on pilot data, in the genetic algorithm. As a particular application, a recognition memory task is studied and the design matrix optimized for contrasts involving the familiarity of individual items (pictures of objects) and the recollection of qualitative information associated with the items (left/right orientation). Optimization of contrast efficiency is a complicated issue whenever subjects' responses are not deterministic but probabilistic. Contrast efficiencies are not predictable unless behavioral responses are included in the design optimization. However, available software for design optimization does not include options for probabilistic behavioral constraints. If the anticipated behavioral responses are included in the optimization algorithm, the design is optimal for the assumed behavioral responses, and the resulting contrast efficiency is greater than what either a block design or a random design can achieve. Furthermore, improvements of contrast detection power depend strongly on the behavioral probabilities, the perceived randomness, and the contrast of interest. The present genetic algorithm can be applied to any case in which fMRI contrasts are dependent on probabilistic responses that can be estimated from pilot data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1788-1799
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2012


  • Event optimization
  • FMRI
  • Familiarity
  • Genetic algorithm
  • Recognition memory
  • Recollection


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