In DepthNeuroscience

Brain scans are prone to false positives, study says

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Science  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6296, pp. 208-209
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6296.208

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Summary

A new study suggests that common settings used in software for analyzing brain scans may lead to false positive results. Researchers led by Anders Eklund, an electrical engineer at Linköping University in Sweden, analyzed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from several public databases. Certain software settings, the team found, could give rise to a false positive result up to 70% of the time. In the context of a typical fMRI experiment, that could lead researchers to wrongly conclude that activity in a certain area of the brain plays a role in a cognitive function such as perception or memory.

  • * Greg Miller is a science and technology journalist based in Portland, Oregon.