Multivariate analytical approaches for investigating brain-behavior relationships


BackgroundMany studies of brain-behavior relationships rely on univariate approaches where each variable of interest is tested independently, which does not allow for the simultaneous investigation of multiple correlated variables. Alternatively, multivariate approaches allow for examining relationships between psychopathology and neural substrates simultaneously. There are multiple multivariate methods to choose from that each have assumptions which can affect the results; however, many studies employ one method without a clear justification for its selection. Additionally, there are few studies illustrating how differences between methods manifest in examining brain-behavior relationships. The purpose of this study was to exemplify how the choice of multivariate approach can change brain-behavior interpretations.MethodWe used data from 9,027 9- to 10-year-old children from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive DevelopmentSM Study (ABCD Study®) to examine brain-behavior relationships with three commonly used multivariate approaches: canonical correlation analysis (CCA), partial least squares correlation (PLSC), and partial least squares regression (PLSR). We examined the associations between psychopathology dimensions including general psychopathology, attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms, conduct problems, and internalizing symptoms with regional brain volumes.ResultsThe results of CCA, PLSC, and PLSR showed both consistencies and differences in the relationship between psychopathology symptoms and brain structure. The leading significant component yielded by each method demonstrated similar patterns of associations between regional brain volumes and psychopathology symptoms. However, the additional significant components yielded by each method demonstrated differential brain-behavior patterns that were not consistent across methods.ConclusionHere we show that CCA, PLSC, and PLSR yield slightly different interpretations regarding the relationship between child psychopathology and brain volume. In demonstrating the divergence between these approaches, we exemplify the importance of carefully considering the method’s underlying assumptions when choosing a multivariate approach to delineate brain-behavior relationships.

Frontiers in Neuroscience