Friday, February 09, 2007

Not Impressed

Functional MRI (fMRI) is all the new buzz. It's all over the news, especially in the last week. The idea is straight forward. Different areas of your brain are "activated" when you move your arm, tap your finger, tell a lie, etc. In practice, it's a LOT more difficult.

It's not the science of fMRI I'm unimpressed with - it's the media coverage. There IS some bad science - there was a group several months ago that claimed fMRI as a foolproof lie detector, which wouldn't be such a bad idea if there was currently any evidence for it.

Moving on, I find that "the news" grossly distorts findings in my field (MRI). It's likely accidental. Some of the stories miss details. Others miss the entire premise. The big examples this week were in fMRI. For instance, this news story broke about Super Bowl advertisers using fMRI to gauge audience reaction to commercials.

Then, there was this story today about using fMRI to determine whether a person was adding or subtracting 2 numbers. They make it sound like you think "addition", and a notice pops up on the computer screen saying "this person is adding". What they don't tell you in the article is that you had to think addition 32 times while they took 155 images (times 8, cause each subject did it did it 8 times), after which they did enough statistics on the images to make you want to forget about addition altogether.

2 Comments:

Blogger Owen said...

Now you know how I feel about Lysol commercials, and antibiotic soaps and crap like that.

Sterilization of your house is not the answer, people!

7:07 PM  
Blogger Joshua Conner said...

Dude, but in 10 years...

NB: I will still be saying this in 10 years.

2:02 PM  

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