This paper presents an approach for selecting optimal components for discriminant analysis. Such an approach is useful when further detailed analyses for discrimination or characterization requires dimensionality reduction. Our approach can accommodate a categorical variable such as diagnosis (e.g. schizophrenic patient or healthy control), or a continuous variable like severity of the disorder. This information is utilized as a reference for measuring a component's discriminant power after principle component decomposition. After sorting each component according to its discriminant power, we extract the best components for discriminant analysis. An application of our reference selection approach is shown using a functional magnetic resonance imaging data set in which the sample size is much less than the dimensionality. The results show that the reference selection approach provides an improved discriminant component set as compared to other approaches. Our approach is general and provides a solid foundation for further discrimination and classification studies.