Univariate semiparametric methods are often used in modeling nonlinear age trajectories for imaging data, which may result in efficiency loss and lower power for identifying important age-related effects that exist in the data. As observed in multiple neuroimaging studies, age trajectories show similar nonlinear patterns for the left and right corresponding regions and for the different parts of a big organ such as the corpus callosum. To incorporate the spatial similarity information without assuming spatial smoothness, we propose a multivariate semiparametric regression model with a spatial similarity penalty, which constrains the variation of the age trajectories among similar regions. The proposed method is applicable to both cross-sectional and longitudinal region-level imaging data. We show the asymptotic rates for the bias and covariance functions of the proposed estimator and its asymptotic normality. Our simulation studies demonstrate that by borrowing information from similar regions, the proposed spatial similarity method improves the efficiency remarkably. We apply the proposed method to two neuroimaging data examples. The results reveal that accounting for the spatial similarity leads to more accurate estimators and better functional clustering results for visualizing brain atrophy pattern.

Functional clustering; Longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Penalized B-splines; Region of interest (ROI); Spatial penalty.