Functional neuroimaging often generates large amounts of data on regions of interest. Such data can be addressed effectively with a widely-used statistical technique based on measurement theory that has not yet been applied to neuroimaging. Confirmatory factor analysis is a convenient hypothesis-driven modeling environment that can be used to conduct formal statistical tests comparing alternative hypotheses regarding the elements of putative neuronal networks. In such models, measures of each activated region of interest are treated as indicators of an underlying latent construct that represents the contemporaneous activation of the elements in the network. As such, confirmatory factor analysis focuses analyses on the activation of hypothesized networks as a whole, improves statistical power by modeling measurement error, and provides a theory-based approach to data reduction with a robust statistical basis. This approach is illustrated using data on seven regions of interest in a hypothesized mesocorticostriatal reward system in a sample of 262 adult volunteers assessed during a card-guessing reward task. A latent construct reflecting contemporaneous activation of the reward system was found to be significantly associated with a latent construct measuring impulsivity, particularly in males.
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