About 40,000 fMRI Studies Might Now Be Useless

NEWS: The Curiosity Podcast is out! Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, Stitcher, SoundCloud and add the RSS feed to any podcast player. If you love it please consider leaving us a review.

We may know even less about the brain than we thought we did, and we didn't think we knew much to begin with. A study submitted for review in February 2016 and approved in May 2016 found a bug in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) software. This flaw isn't just a small bump in the road, it could mean that everything we've learned about human brain activity in the past 15 years is totally wrong. Until the publication of this paper, scientists commonly used fMRI to scan the brain for study. Oftentimes, researchers used a technique in which areas of the brain would "light up" when in use. For the most recent study, researchers tested three of the most popular fMRI software packages (SPM, FSL, and AFNI), expecting an average false-positive rate of about five percent. Instead, the software resulted in false-positive rates of up to 70 percent. The bug was corrected in May 2016, but it leaves all of some 40,000 studies that used FMRI research in question. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

If you liked this you'll love our podcast! Check it out on iTunesGoogle Play MusicStitcherSoundCloud, search 'curiosity' on your favorite podcast app or add the RSS Feed URL.