Questioning the Correlation of fMRI and Behavior

Posted 15 Jan 2009 at 19:55 UTC by steve Share This

We've posted numerous articles on behavioural research being done with the aid of fMRI scans of the human brain. During recent months, quite a controversy has been brewing in the scientific community over statistical correlation methods used in these studies. Last month, a widely circulated paper, Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience (PDF format), criticizing fMRI studies was published in Perspective on Psychological Science. The paper was written by Edward Vul, a PhD student at MIT. A recent Nature News article summarizes the controversy. The Neurocritic blog explores Vul's criticisms while NewScientist attempts to explain the controversy. The International Cognition and Culture Institute also published a summary of the goings on. Several of the criticized researchers have written a joint rebuttal (PDF format) that agrees with some points of Vul's paper while pointing out several "partially flawed and misleading" statistical arguments. Not surprisingly Vul has now posted a web page rebutting the rebuttal. The only sure result of all this is likely to be more rigorous studies of fMRI data resulting in better research on the inner workings of the human brain.

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