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A Checklist for Assessing the Methodological Quality of Concurrent tES-fMRI Studies (ContES Checklist): A Consensus Study and Statement

By Hamed Ekhtiari, Peyman Ghobadi-Azbari, Axel Thielscher, Andrea Antal, Lucia M. Li, A. Duke Shereen, Yuranny Cabral-Calderin, Daniel Keeser, Til O Bergmann, Asif Jamil, Ines R. Violante, Jorge Almeida, Marcus Meinzer, Hartwig R Siebner, Adam J Woods, Charlotte J Stagg, Rany Abend, Daria Antonenko, Tibor Auer, Marc Bachinger, Chris Baeken, Helen C Barron, Henry W. Chase, Jenny Crinion, Abhishek Datta, Matthew H. Davis, Mohsen Ebrahimi, Zeinab Esmaeilpour, Brian Falcone, Valentina Fiori, Iman Ghodratitoostani, Gadi Gilam, Roland H. Grabner, Joel D. Greenspan, Georg Groen, Gesa Hartwigsen, Tobias U. Hauser, Christoph S. Herrmann, Chi-Hung Juan, Bart Krekelberg, Stephanie Lefebvre, Sook-Lei Liew, Kristoffer Hougaard Madsen, Rasoul Mahdavifar-Khayati, Nastaran Malmir, Paola Marangolo, Andrew K. Martin, Timothy J Meeker, Hossein Mohaddes Ardabili, Marius Moisa, Davide Momi, Beni Mulyana, Alexander Opitz, Natasza Orlov, Patrick Ragert, Christian Ruff, Giulio Ruffini, Michaela Ruttorf, Arshiya Sangchooli, Klaus Schellhorn, Gottfried Schlaug, Bernhard Sehm, Ghazaleh Soleimani, Hosna Tavakoli, Benjamin Thompson, Dagmar Timmann, Aki Tsuchiyagaito, Martin Ulrich, Johannes Vosskuhl, Christiane A. Weinrich, Mehran Zare-Bidoky, Xiaochu Zhang, Benedikt Zoefel, Michael A Nitsche, Marom Bikson

Posted 30 Dec 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.23.20248579

Background: Low intensity transcranial electrical stimulation (tES), including alternating or direct current stimulation (tACS or tDCS), applies weak electrical stimulation to modulate the activity of brain circuits. Integration of tES with concurrent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows for the mapping of neural activity during neuromodulation, supporting causal studies of both brain function and tES effects. Methodological aspects of tES-fMRI studies underpin the results, and reporting them in appropriate detail is required for reproducibility and interpretability. Despite the growing number of published reports, there are no consensus-based checklists for disclosing methodological details of concurrent tES-fMRI studies. Objective: To develop a consensus-based checklist of reporting standards for concurrent tES-fMRI studies to support methodological rigor, transparency, and reproducibility (ContES Checklist). Methods: A two-phase Delphi consensus process was conducted by a steering committee (SC) of 13 members and 49 expert panelists (EP) through the International Network of the tES-fMRI (INTF) Consortium. The process began with a circulation of a preliminary checklist of essential items and additional recommendations, developed by the SC based on a systematic review of 57 concurrent tES-fMRI studies. Contributors were then invited to suggest revisions or additions to the initial checklist. After the revision phase, contributors rated the importance of the 17 essential items and 42 additional recommendations in the final checklist. The state of methodological transparency within the 57 reviewed concurrent tES-fMRI studies was then assessed using the checklist. Results: Experts refined the checklist through the revision and rating phases, leading to a checklist with three categories of essential items and additional recommendations: (1) technological factors, (2) safety and noise tests, and (3) methodological factors. The level of reporting of checklist items varied among the 57 concurrent tES-fMRI papers, ranging from 24% to 76%. On average, 53% of checklist items were reported in a given article. Conclusions: Use of the ContES checklist is expected to enhance the methodological reporting quality of future concurrent tES-fMRI studies, and increase methodological transparency and reproducibility. Keywords: Transcranial electrical stimulation (tES), Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Concurrent tES fMRI, Consensus statement, ContES checklist.

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