Over the years, I’ve exposed a number of medical diagnostic tests. For example, the antibody test was once taken as a sign of good health when it registered positive, but then it was turned upside down—a positive result was read as a signal of illness.
Now we have the vaunted MRI brain-imaging system.
From sciencealert.com (7/6/16): “There could be a very serious problem with the past 15 years of research into human brain activity, with a new study suggesting that a bug in fMRI software could invalidate the results of some 40,000 papers.”
“That’s massive, because functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is one of the best tools we have to measure brain activity, and if it’s flawed, it means all those conclusions about what our brains look like during things like exercise, gaming, love, and drug addiction are wrong.”
“It’s fascinating stuff, but the fact is that when scientists are interpreting data from an fMRI machine, they’re not looking at the actual brain. As Richard Chirgwin reports for The Register, what they’re looking at is an image of the brain divided into tiny ‘voxels’, then interpreted by a computer program.”
“’Software, rather than humans … scans the voxels looking for clusters’, says Chirgwin. ‘When you see a claim that “Scientists know when you’re about to move an arm: these images prove it,” they’re interpreting what they’re told by the statistical software’.”
“To test how good this software actually is, Eklund and his team gathered resting-state fMRI data from 499 healthy people sourced from databases around the world, split them up into groups of 20, and measured them against each other to get 3 million random comparisons.”
“They tested the three most popular fMRI software packages for fMRI analysis – SPM, FSL, and AFNI – and while they shouldn’t have found much difference across the groups, the software resulted in false-positive rates of up to 70 percent.”
“And that’s a problem, because as Kate Lunau at Motherboard points out, not only did the team expect to see an average false positive rate of just 5 percent, it also suggests that some results were so inaccurate, they could be indicating brain activity where there was none.”
“’These results question the validity of some 40,000 fMRI studies and may have a large impact on the interpretation of neuroimaging results’, the team writes in PNAS [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences].”
“The bad news here is that one of the bugs the team identified has been in the system for the past 15 years, which explains why so many papers could now be affected.”
“The bug was corrected in May 2015, at the time the researchers started writing up their paper, but the fact that it remained undetected for over a decade shows just how easy it was for something like this to happen, because researchers just haven’t had reliable methods for validating fMRI results.”
40,000 scientific papers invalidated. And from what I gather, not everyone is sure all the problems with MRI have been corrected.
Think about the bloviating—“We now know what the brain is doing when people are running and sleeping and eating…” No reason to have believed any of this.
And then there is Obama’s so called Brain Initiative, a program kicked off and funded after the Sandy Hook School catastrophe. At least some of the scientific work has been relying on MRI imagining. How much of that work needs to be thrown out?
In case you think invalidating 40,000 research papers isn’t a gigantic scandal, consider how many times these worthless papers have been cited as evidence in other studies. The ripple effect creates a tsunami of lies.
And for each one of those lies, there has been a researcher who, quite sure of himself and his reputation, made statements to the press and colleagues and students, promoting his findings.
Fake news? Now here is awesome fake news.