Dead salmon, bugs, brain scans: can we ever agree on neuroscience research?

Brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have taken a battering. Most famously, the technique appeared to show brain and spinal cord activity when used on a dead salmon. A later study found a bug in software most commonly used to analyse fMRI scan data. fMRI works because increases in brain activity increases blood flow in the brain. It also churns out huge amounts of data. So pinpointing brain areas which are more active than others means processing lots of data. This is where errors emerge. To solve this, researchers, often use a small sample size, which brings its own limitations. “The average statistical power of studies in the neurosciences is very low,” notes a study in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, “consequences include overestimates of effect.” Now this question of…


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