According to a study recently published in PNAS , a total of 40,000 studies carried out over 15 years could be wrong due to errors in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) software, one of the most useful imaging techniques to study the activity of the brain.
The study took resting data from 499 patients around the world and compared the results of their MRI scans for 3 million random comparisons. 70% were false positives . The experts evaluated the three most popular software packages for functional magnetic resonance imaging: SPM, FSL, and AFNI.
How is it possible that there are 40,000 poorly conducted studies and no one has noticed? The main reason is that MRIs are expensive, which has traditionally forced researchers to conduct studies with few patients and, most importantly, the experiments have not been repeated in many cases, to see if the results were the same.
In addition, until recently this problem was coupled with the slowness of these computer programs . As Anders Eklund of Linköping University in Sweden and lead author of the study explains:
Despite the popularity of functional magnetic resonance imaging as a tool for studying brain function, the statistical methods used have rarely been validated with real data.
Fortunately, we have made significant progress in this field, and what used to take 10 years to process can now be done in 20 days, and the results are available online for other scientists to study.
This finding, then, does not invalidate all the research done with fMRI, but there could be many errors , and that all those conclusions about what our brains do while exercising, playing, having sex or experiencing drug addiction such time they are partially wrong .
A heavy blow to which we must add that last year it was found that less than half of the findings in psychology studies were reproducible.
Via | Science Alert