Template Independent Component Analysis: Targeted and Reliable Estimation of Subject-level Brain Networks Using Big Data Population Priors

Amanda F. Mejia, Mary Beth Nebel, Yikai Wang, Brian S. Caffo, Ying Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large brain imaging databases contain a wealth of information on brain organization in the populations they target, and on individual variability. While such databases have been used to study group-level features of populations directly, they are currently underutilized as a resource to inform single-subject analysis. Here, we propose leveraging the information contained in large functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) databases by establishing population priors to employ in an empirical Bayesian framework. We focus on estimation of brain networks as source signals in independent component analysis (ICA). We formulate a hierarchical “template” ICA model where source signals—including known population brain networks and subject-specific signals—are represented as latent variables. For estimation, we derive an expectation–maximization (EM) algorithm having an explicit solution. However, as this solution is computationally intractable, we also consider an approximate subspace algorithm and a faster two-stage approach. Through extensive simulation studies, we assess performance of both methods and compare with dual regression, a popular but ad-hoc method. The two proposed algorithms have similar performance, and both dramatically outperform dual regression. We also conduct a reliability study utilizing the Human Connectome Project and find that template ICA achieves substantially better performance than dual regression, achieving 75–250% higher intra-subject reliability. Supplementary materials for this article, including a standardized description of the materials available for reproducing the work, are available as an online supplement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1151-1177
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of the American Statistical Association
Issue number531
StatePublished - Jul 2 2020


  • Applications and case studies
  • Bayesian methods
  • Computationally intensive methods
  • Expectation–maximization
  • Neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty

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