DATABASE: Swap Meet for Brain Mappers

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Science  14 Mar 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5613, pp. 1637
DOI: 10.1126/science.299.5613.1637c

A technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures blood flow to different parts of the brain, enabling researchers to chart which regions are active when subjects perform a mental task such as tracking a moving target with their hand. The fMRI Data Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, helps neuroscientists share data from their fMRI experiments, so other teams can reanalyze results or pool information for comparison studies.

The 3-year-old clearinghouse, which now holds 36 data sets and adds about 20 more each year, accepts only studies published in peer-reviewed journals. Because fMRI files can be gargantuan, the center will mail you a free CD—containing the data and details of the experimental methods—for your chosen study. However, the center will soon provide online access to some results and add free Java tools for managing the deluge of fMRI data, says operations director Jack Van Horn. fMRI researchers are tackling involved questions, such as how brain processing goes haywire during Alzheimer's disease and how neural regions respond during social interactions. “We're anxious to have any and all of these studies,” Van Horn says.

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