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Math Medicine Science

Dead Salmon's "Brain Activity" Cautions fMRI Researchers 287

AthanasiusKircher sends in a Wired writeup on what should surely be a contender in the next Improbable Research competition: wiring a dead salmon into an fMRI machine and showing it pictures of humans designed to evoke various emotions. "When they got around to analyzing the voxel... data, the voxels representing the area where the salmon's tiny brain sat showed evidence of activity. In the fMRI scan, it looked like the dead salmon was actually thinking about the pictures it had been shown. ... The result is completely nuts — but that's actually exactly the point. [Neuroscientist Craig] Bennett... and his adviser, George Wolford, wrote up the work as a warning about the dangers of false positives in fMRI data. They wanted to call attention to ways the field could improve its statistical methods. ... Bennett notes: 'We could set our threshold [of significance] so high that we have no false positives, but we have no legitimate results.... We could also set it so low that we end up getting voxels in the fish's brain. It's the fine line that we walk.'" The research has been turned down by several publications, according to Wired, but a poster is available (PDF).
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Dead Salmon's "Brain Activity" Cautions fMRI Researchers

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You are always doing something marginal when the boss drops by your desk.