This really is old news but we recently stumbled across a brilliant blog post from Neuroskeptic about a controversy that erupted from a methodology paper about errors in research comparing fMRI brain imaging with aspects of behaviour or experience. The original paper got a lot of media coverage and basically pointed out that some of the methods used in analysing this research are likely to exaggerate the actual relationships seen between brain activity and behavioural measures. This is important to us as the current explosion in fMRI research and pain might also be prone to this error. It is one thing that the message from fMRI research frequently gets distorted along the path from laboratory to media reporting (ladies and gentlemen I give you “acupuncture lessens pain in the brain not the body”) but by understanding these more subtle errors we can at least be sure that the right message leaves the lab. Anyway, enough from us, Neuroskeptic wrote what we think is an incredible review and analysis of the whole issue. There’s nothing useful we can add but to say READ THIS!
Vul, E., Harris, C., Winkielman, P., & Pashler, H. (2009). Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4 (3), 274-290