Neuroscience meets behavior : A systematic literature review on magnetic resonance imaging of the brain combined with real-world digital phenotyping

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A primary goal of neuroscience is to understand the relationship between the brain and behavior. While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examines brain structure and function under controlled conditions, digital phenotyping via portable automatic devices (PAD) quantifies behavior in real-world settings. Combining these two technologies may bridge the gap between brain imaging, physiology, and real-time behavior, enhancing the generalizability of laboratory and clinical findings. However, the use of MRI and data from PADs outside the MRI scanner remains underexplored. Herein, we present a Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis systematic literature review that identifies and analyzes the current state of research on the integration of brain MRI and PADs. PubMed and Scopus were automatically searched using keywords covering various MRI techniques and PADs. Abstracts were screened to only include articles that collected MRI brain data and PAD data outside the laboratory environment. Full-text screening was then conducted to ensure included articles combined quantitative data from MRI with data from PADs, yielding 94 selected papers for a total of N = 14,778 subjects. Results were reported as cross-frequency tables between brain imaging and behavior sampling methods and patterns were identified through network analysis. Furthermore, brain maps reported in the studies were synthesized according to the measurement modalities that were used. Results demonstrate the feasibility of integrating MRI and PADs across various study designs, patient and control populations, and age groups. The majority of published literature combines functional, T1-weighted, and diffusion weighted MRI with physical activity sensors, ecological momentary assessment via PADs, and sleep. The literature further highlights specific brain regions frequently correlated with distinct MRI-PAD combinations. These combinations enable in-depth studies on how physiology, brain function and behavior influence each other. Our review highlights the potential for constructing brain–behavior models that extend beyond the scanner and into real-world contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere26620
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024
MoE publication typeA2 Review article, Literature review, Systematic review


  • actigraph
  • ambulatory assessment
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • diffusion weighted imaging
  • digital phenotyping
  • ecological momentary assessments
  • EMA
  • fMRI
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • MRI
  • physical activity
  • physiology
  • portable device
  • sleep
  • smart monitoring
  • smartphone
  • smartwatch
  • structural magnetic resonance imaging
  • wearable


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