Missing data estimation in fMRI dynamic causal modeling

Shaza B. Zaghlool, Christopher L. Wyatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Dynamic Causal Modeling (DCM) can be used to quantify cognitive function in individuals as effective connectivity. However, ambiguity among subjects in the number and location of discernible active regions prevents all candidate models from being compared in all subjects, precluding the use of DCM as an individual cognitive phenotyping tool. This paper proposes a solution to this problem by treating missing regions in the first-level analysis as missing data, and performing estimation of the time course associated with any missing region using one of four candidate methods: zero-filling, average-filling, noise-filling using a fixed stochastic process, or one estimated using expectation-maximization. The effect of this estimation scheme was analyzed by treating it as a preprocessing step to DCM and observing the resulting effects on model evidence. Simulation studies show that estimation using expectation-maximization yields the highest classification accuracy using a simple loss function and highest model evidence, relative to other methods. This result held for various dataset sizes and varying numbers of model choice. In real data, application to Go/No-Go and Simon tasks allowed computation of signals from the missing nodes and the consequent computation of model evidence in all subjects compared to 62 and 48 percent respectively if no preprocessing was performed. These results demonstrate the face validity of the preprocessing scheme and open the possibility of using single-subject DCM as an individual cognitive phenotyping tool.

Original languageEnglish
Article number191
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue number8 JUL
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014



  • Dynamic causal modeling
  • Expectation-maximization
  • Missing data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this