A Software Bug Questions Brain Imaging Research

Posted: Sep 30 2016, 8:02am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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A Software Bug Questions Brain Imaging Research
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  • A Software Bug Puts a Question Mark on Decades of Brain Imaging Research

A software bug has revealed the truth about brain imaging studies. It seems what was supposed to have been the final word on the matter is just a matter of conjecture.

Ever since it started in the early 90s, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has completely turned the field of brain research on its head. Valuable insights into brain ailments such as psychosis and dementia were explored via this technique.

Basically, it is a medical imaging process that allows the researchers to scan the brain for the pathways that oxygenated blood takes in it. If a brain region is being used by the patient, the oxygen concentration there would automatically increase.

Therefore, MRI allows us to see how information is being processed by the brain. This is a rare example of a technology that literally makes us peer into the brain while the thought processes are taking place inside it.

Yet in recent times, there have been a flurry of headlines regarding MRI. The question is that many such MRI readings may be false to begin with. A bug may have infected the software and thus bamboozled the scientists into believing that the past 15 years of research was the truth.

In fact, it wasn’t!

Some of the headlines that are making it to the front page news have it that the procedure has no use value at all. Much of what we thought to be true about the brain was just hogwash.

Is this a fact?

A study in July uncovered this much that the basic equipment used for MRI remained unexamined for a long time. Despite 25 years having passed, no one stood up and questioned the validity and accuracy of the procedure.

False positive rates of MRI readings were measured by the scientists, according to The Guardian. This consists of the supposition that there is a result whereas actually there is no result whatsoever.

A similar process is seen when a pregnancy test comes up positive when in fact the woman is not pregnant at all. Scientific validity is at stake here. The recording of MRI data is pretty complex.

So false positives cannot be entirely ruled out. The researchers try to phase out any false positives but this does not mean that the accuracy rates are 100% foolproof.

One such method used can turn out upto 70% false positives. It was wrongly thought that the rate for this margin of error was 5%. There is supposedly a bug present in the software used for MRI scans and it has been there since the past 15 years.

This problem was finally rectified in 2015. This however does not spell the doom of MRI. Science is made more stronger by self-corrections and paradigm shifts in its makeup.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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