Pencil and pieces of eraser

To Err is Human: Science & the Art of Finding Our Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes. Even scientists. It’s part of being human. That’s actually why science is so invaluable — it’s a collaborative practice that requires us to continually test, share, and reevaluate the evidence upon which we’ve based our interpretations of reality.

The problem researchers have uncovered is simple: the computer programs designed to sift through the images produced by fMRI scans have a tendency to suggest differences in brain activity where none exist … The report throws into question the results of some portion of the more than 40,000 studies that have been conducted using fMRI … Overall, the programs had a false positive rate — detecting a difference where none actually existed — of as much as 70 percent …

Eklund and his colleagues were only able to discover this methodological flaw thanks to the open sharing of group brain scan data… [S]uch sharing of brain scan data is more the exception than the norm, which hinders other researchers attempting to re-create the experiment and replicate the results. Such replication is a cornerstone of the scientific method, ensuring that findings are robust.

Much of What We Know about the Brain May Be Wrong: The Problem with FMRI | TED: David Biello