July 17, 2016 – There’s Hope for fMRI Despite Major Software Flaws
Over the last 25 years, fMRI has developed into a powerful technique to look at the brain. But a recent analysis of fMRI software found a bug that jeopardizes 40,000 studies which use the technique.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, is used to highlight which portions of the brain are active during certain tasks. The brain scans they produce are so large and complex that they require statistical software to find patterns within the data. But the three most common types of software used frequently produces false-positives, according to a recent paper in PNAS. Led by Dr. Anders Eklund, an associate professor of medical informatics at Linköping University in Sweden, the study showed that up to 70% of the time the software reported brain activity where there was none.
Ivo Dinov, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and director of the Statistics Online Computational Resource, called the study a “Herculean task,” and he was quick to point out that “the report certainly does not invalidate the studies. I want to make it crystal-clear that it does not discredit, specifically, any of these studies.”