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Dead Salmon's "Brain Activity" Cautions fMRI Researchers

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the as-we-may-think dept.

Math 287

AthanasiusKircher sends in a Wired writeup on what should surely be a contender in the next Improbable Research competition: wiring a dead salmon into an fMRI machine and showing it pictures of humans designed to evoke various emotions. "When they got around to analyzing the voxel... data, the voxels representing the area where the salmon's tiny brain sat showed evidence of activity. In the fMRI scan, it looked like the dead salmon was actually thinking about the pictures it had been shown. ... The result is completely nuts — but that's actually exactly the point. [Neuroscientist Craig] Bennett... and his adviser, George Wolford, wrote up the work as a warning about the dangers of false positives in fMRI data. They wanted to call attention to ways the field could improve its statistical methods. ... Bennett notes: 'We could set our threshold [of significance] so high that we have no false positives, but we have no legitimate results.... We could also set it so low that we end up getting voxels in the fish's brain. It's the fine line that we walk.'" The research has been turned down by several publications, according to Wired, but a poster is available (PDF).

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What about red herring? (4, Funny)

WetCat (558132) | about 5 years ago | (#29484647)

Wiring red herring's brain? Will it think too?

igNobel on the way! (3, Funny)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 5 years ago | (#29484707)

They're definitely on track for an igNobel prize. Using a red herring instead of the salmon would have made it a near certainty. A kipper would normally be the best choice, apart from the lack of a head/brain.

Re:igNobel on the way! (4, Insightful)

shermo (1284310) | about 5 years ago | (#29485163)

I thought igNobel prizes were for genuinely useless research. This research is very useful for highlighting some of the problems with fMRI research.

Re:igNobel on the way! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485201)

Read up on them. This is exactly the sort of stuff they're awarded for.

Re:igNobel on the way! (4, Informative)

Brian Gordon (987471) | about 5 years ago | (#29485337)

wrong [wikipedia.org]

Re:igNobel on the way! (1)

jd (1658) | about 5 years ago | (#29485467)

No, research that absolutely nobody would want to repeat or is so utterly improbable that nobody would THINK of repeating it is all perfectly valid. Such entrants have won awards in the past.

Re:What about red herring? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484857)

Oh c'mon. Everyone knows they are only good for chopping down the mightiest of trees.

Re:What about red herring? (1)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | about 5 years ago | (#29485105)

Not if it has a haddock...

Re:What about red herring? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485209)

Nope, that's just a fallacy

spoooooky (0, Flamebait)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | about 5 years ago | (#29484659)

Are you sure this doesn't prove the existence of the soul???

Re:spoooooky (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484751)

Are you sure this doesn't prove the existence of the soul???

WARNING!!! Pun approaching!!

Re:spoooooky (3, Informative)

Anpheus (908711) | about 5 years ago | (#29484763)

It proves that an fMRI, like most machines, needs to be carefully operated and the mechanisms understood, as there are risks of false positives for results.

The paper is about intentionally observing a dead creature, and coming across a few false positives and why that happened.

Re:spoooooky (0, Flamebait)

religious freak (1005821) | about 5 years ago | (#29484781)

Wouldn't the soul have already left the body upon death, using any number of different religious beliefs? I don't think many beliefs think it sticks around tied to the body after it's dead - kind of defeats the purpose of religion :)

The thing that weirds me out - call me unscientific - is that upon organ donation, they just do a simple EEG (or is it EKG?) to look for nervous system / brain activity. If you've got minimal brain activity (i.e. "brain dead"), they'll still harvest you. Might be that old tales from the crypt episode I watched when I was 13, but... freak me out. That's why I'm not signed up to donate organs. I want to make damn sure I can't perceive ANYTHING before they take my organs out of my body.

If someone wants to correct me (I hope I'm wrong), please point me to a credible reference that shows I'm wrong (i.e. they do more than a simple "yeah, he seems pretty dead to me"). Dismiss it if you'd like, but really, why aren't people more concerned about this?

Re:spoooooky (3, Funny)

iMac Were (911261) | about 5 years ago | (#29485231)

I don't think many beliefs think it sticks around tied to the body after it's dead

Zulus do.
Aztecs too.
Who's informative?
Not you!

Re:spoooooky (3, Interesting)

Kartoffel (30238) | about 5 years ago | (#29484871)

"It's OK to eat fish cause they don't have any feelings."
-- K. Cobain

Re:spoooooky (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484995)

"It's OK to eat the barrel of a gun cause then you don't have any feelings."

-- K. Cobain

Re:spoooooky (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485347)

It's OK to eat any animal because, by the time you eat it, it doesn't have any feelings. - A normal person

Re:spoooooky (1)

moon3 (1530265) | about 5 years ago | (#29485019)

MRI errors, it is even stated in the document. This extreme case has been selected to highlighting of whole problem of the MRI scanner, and not to show post-mortem activity as they are trying to spin this.

Re:spoooooky (3, Funny)

Jeremi (14640) | about 5 years ago | (#29485311)

No sir. What it proves is the existence of the sole.

Re:spoooooky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485341)

Lucky you explained that, I'm sure nobody would have got it otherwise.

Well FUCK (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484687)

And here I though I had exterminated the last of the zombie salmon.

Not a salmon (0, Offtopic)

Rix (54095) | about 5 years ago | (#29484689)

Atlantic "salmon" isn't really salmon, it's more of a salt water trout.

Re:Not a relevant comment (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484719)

The point of the experiment was not to prove the type of fish.

Re:Not a salmon (5, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 5 years ago | (#29484805)

It was probably a salmon of doubt.

Re:Not a salmon (1)

Warhawke (1312723) | about 5 years ago | (#29485411)

I'd say it was more likely a red herring.

This is totally offtopic, but (5, Informative)

Kickasso (210195) | about 5 years ago | (#29485069)

Atlantic salmon is called Salmo salar in biology-speak. It is the model species of the entire order Salmoniformes. Salmon doesn't get any truer than that. Pacific species belong to the genus Oncorhynchus. They are true salmons too. "Trouts" belong to both Oncorhynchus and Salmo (and another 5 genera). Some of these trouts have anadromous forms (that is, go to the seas and return to the rivers to spawn), for instance, the rainbow trout (called steelhead in its anadromous form) is Oncorhynchus mykiss and the brown trout (sea trout) is Salmo trutta.

Re:This is totally offtopic, but (0, Offtopic)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 5 years ago | (#29485303)

You're just fishing for that +5 insightful/informative, aren't you.

Was available earlier to the west (0, Offtopic)

Rix (54095) | about 5 years ago | (#29485339)

Being in the Atlantic, after all.

Nonetheless, when selling salmon one downplays origin if Atlantic and advertises it if Pacific. Atlantic is a cheap substitute, like imitation crab.

Re:This is totally offtopic, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485359)

Wow you apes can learn how to use google? :O

Re:This is totally offtopic, but (4, Funny)

value_added (719364) | about 5 years ago | (#29485439)

A common mistake made in discussions of taxonomy is overlooking the issue of whether closely related species taste the same. In this case, you omitted the fact that all of them are great when grilled. With a slice of lemon on the side.

Does the scientific method for biologists exclude barbeques?

Why use a salmon brain? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484691)

Fuck, if the thing is dead anyway, why not throw a human brain in there and get way better results.

Overlords (-1, Redundant)

ballfire (807022) | about 5 years ago | (#29484713)

And I, for one, welcome our new dead salmon overlords!!

Re:Overlords (0, Flamebait)

strstr (539330) | about 5 years ago | (#29484987)

You're stupid.

Re:Overlords (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 5 years ago | (#29485077)

Shouldn't be too much different than our current rulers, other than they will start to stink a little sooner...

Terri was alive (3, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 5 years ago | (#29484715)

This story makes me reconsider my zeal to see Terri Schiavo die. If she was indeed experiencing brain activity despite her handicap, surely she would be considered more alive than a dead salmon.

Our consciousness is all just a series of nerve impulses and chemical reactions. If Terri was experiencing these reactions and impulses, I hate to say it, but we may have killed a human being and not just a vegetable.

God bless you, Terri Schiavo.

Re:Terri was alive (3, Funny)

EsJay (879629) | about 5 years ago | (#29484765)

Not dead. She's resting!

Re:Terri was alive (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 5 years ago | (#29484783)

God bless you, Terri Schiavo.

Not sure if this was a troll but I'll bite.

This is not about brain activity post-mortem! This is about the stupidity of some fMRI data. This is about the voodoo correlations that come out of fMRI data [slashdot.org] in popular research that is peer reviewed. They did this to prove a point, not claim dead fish think. Even if we did, I could use your logic to claim that every time we bury a dead person we are burying them with cognitive abilities -- obviously not true! I thought the summary covered that very well as the paper being titled "Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An argument for multiple comparisons correction."

Re:Terri was alive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484893)

Even if we did, I could use your logic to claim that every time we bury a dead person we are burying them with cognitive abilities -- obviously not true!

1. How do we know that this is not so ? There has never been a way to tell... 2. Reptile brains are less energy-hungry than human brains. There's a chance that the fish's brain was still functioning at the time ...

Re:Terri was alive (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484975)

1. I guess we'll just have to ask you... um... a bit later.

2. Fish are not reptiles.

3. ?????

4. ... PROFIT!!

"Alive" isn't everything. (4, Interesting)

ciroknight (601098) | about 5 years ago | (#29484885)

Even vegetables put into an MRI machine for a functional scan can show some 'brain activity', simply because the fMRI doesn't actually show 'brain activity', it (in its typical configuration) shows blood oxygenation concentration levels in various places in the brain. The real problem is translating increasing or decreasing levels of oxygenation into brain activity. That's precisely what this study is showing: even a dead fish has changing brain-blood oxygenation levels. You need to remember to do the science and the math part of the problem, and make sure that the statistics are really showing meaningful relations.

The question remains as to what functionality is required to call a person "alive" or "brain dead". If you want to be as absolutely conservative as possible, anyone with a beating heart and working brain stem (corneal reflexes, heart-beat signal, breathing stimuli, etc) and can be considered alive, even if their entire frontal lobe has been entirely caved in removing any wisp of humanity and they aren't even capable of controlling their bowels or bladder or many other autonomic or homeostatic functions. Whether you think it's cruel to pull the plug on someone in this state is entirely up to personal beliefs and/or religious convictions. Medicine tries not to tread too deeply into this water, simply because it's not worth it to rehash the ethical dilemmas with no new science to change anyone's opinion. We leave it up to the individuals (through advanced directives, living wills, etc) and their families to choose.

Just don't be fooled into thinking that scattered activity in a bundle of nerves we happen to call a brain necessarily means she's "alive".

Re:"Alive" isn't everything. (5, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 5 years ago | (#29484967)

"That's precisely what this study is showing: even a dead fish has changing brain-blood oxygenation levels."

No, they're showing that the noise inherent in the scan can be taken for signal if you aren't careful with your stats. The dead fish is NOT exhibiting varying blood oxygenation levels.

Even the worst fMRI experiments that get published use a repetitive design, or equivalent. The simplest setup is to administer a stimulus or have the subject do something then stop, then do it again then stop, then do it again, etc. When you're done, you look for signals that vary in tandem with the stimulus.

A dead fish's brain does NOT have blood oxygenation levels that vary in that way. For the purposes of the experiment they're basically constant. However, if you look at enough different measurements, the noise superimposed on that static signal will correlate with the stimulus.

The fish is just for laughs. They could have easily done the same thing with a jar of agar.

Re:Terri was alive (0)

Kartoffel (30238) | about 5 years ago | (#29484921)

But this study showed that dead salmon can show just as much brain activity as Terri Schaivo. I don't mean to disparage what she went through or anything. Unconscious people still have active brains, too. This study just shows that a "dead" organism with a brain that hasn't yet decomposed can still support some processes. I bet if you dry out the organism, or heat it or freeze it, or inject foreign chemicals, the dead fish brain won't respond the same way. ....and OF COURSE they killed a human being. When people say "she's a vegetable" that doesn't literally mean she is undergoing photosynthesis and putting down roots.

Re:Terri was alive (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484941)

Terri Schiavo's not dead, she's pining for the fjords!

Re:Terri was alive (4, Funny)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#29484977)

And yet once again, you live up to your username! Bravo Dude! Bravo!

the next time i have salmon with vegetables (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 5 years ago | (#29484983)

i'll have a faint recollection of terri schiavo and i won't know why, thanks to your post

thanks a lot

Re:Terri was alive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485365)

I've been thinking: Let's say "screw science" and assume the impossible situation that she wasn't utterly brain-dead...
I can imagine very few tortures worse than being trapped in your own head, with no ability to interact with the outside world, for years upon years. Me, I'd be begging for death within a week.

Wait, is it april already? (1)

Da w00t (1789) | about 5 years ago | (#29484723)

"The *dead* salmon was asked to determine what emotion the individual in the photo must have been experiencing."

How long until we have undead salmon providing emotional therapy services for humans? Or is Dartmouth employing Aqua Man?

Re:Wait, is it april already? (0, Redundant)

DarkOx (621550) | about 5 years ago | (#29484811)

I for welcome our new zombie salmon overlords.

Re:Wait, is it april already? (4, Funny)

Ifni (545998) | about 5 years ago | (#29485035)

I for one welcome our new zombie salmon psychotherapist overlords.

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but:

Fixed that for you.

Actually... (5, Funny)

wombatmobile (623057) | about 5 years ago | (#29484729)

Fish are capable of all sorts [blogspot.com] of feelings for humans.

Re:Actually... (4, Funny)

powerlinekid (442532) | about 5 years ago | (#29485101)

Yo wombatmobile I know you just posted and all and I'm gonna let you finish... but South Park made the best human fish love [wikipedia.org] this year.

Re:Actually... (0, Troll)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 5 years ago | (#29485117)

Fish are capable of all sorts of feelings for humans.

Just ask Kanye West...

Classical case of Arrogantitis Scientificus? (5, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29484767)

[..] it looked like the dead salmon was actually thinking about the pictures it had been shown. ... The result is completely nuts -- [...] as a warning about the dangers of false positives [...]

Looks to me like the dark matter syndrome: "Our theories wrong? Our calculations off by an insane amount? Unpossible! That can never be. Nature must be lying!"

Has anyone even checked if a dead brain can still have flows of energy through its brain? I mean light patterns still reach the retinas, and can still trigger signals, depending on the state of the neurons there. How long was that salmon dead? I know that pigs can be frozen to be clinically dead for long times (90+ minutes), and still be revived without much damage.

I'd at least check if there are actual signals of current going trough the brain (with an OTHER (better) instrument, before dismissing it. Every unchecked assumption is a good chance for flaw in your study. You wouldn't want it to be dismissed by peer review, because of a faulty assumption.

Exactly! Science is stupid. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484815)

Scientists like to make themselves sound smart and sophisticated but when it comes right down to it, scientists are a bunch of arrogant pricks who know nothing and simply want the rest of us blue collar folks to fund their insane "dead salmon" experiments with our hard earned tax dollars.

Whether it is evolution or global warming, scientists have been wrong about everything since they first started talking about the natural world. It is well past time that we go back to a REAL understanding of the world through our minds and our hearts, not through cold and dead measurement of useless facts.

Re:Exactly! Science is stupid. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485183)

I love how on slashdot, if you are not an acolyte in the "science is never wrong" religion, you are *ALWAYS* moderated down as a troll or as flamebait. Make all the intelligent, logical, and reasonable arguments you want, but if you hit too close to home, the censors of slashdot moderate you away. Too bad for you lot that ignoring the Truth will not make it go away.

Re:Exactly! Science is stupid. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485277)

...intelligent, logical, and reasonable arguments...

Uh...

Scientists like to make themselves sound smart and sophisticated but when it comes right down to it, scientists are a bunch of arrogant pricks who know nothing and simply want the rest of us blue collar folks to fund their insane "dead salmon" experiments with our hard earned tax dollars.

Classic case of idiotus not understandus (3, Informative)

syousef (465911) | about 5 years ago | (#29484915)

Looks to me like the dark matter syndrome: "Our theories wrong? Our calculations off by an insane amount? Unpossible! That can never be. Nature must be lying!"

I find it amazing that people who haven't even bothered to study the data or the reason for hypotheses like dark matter feel the need to make ass backwards comments about people who've literally dedicated their lives to it. What do you actually know about dark matter and the current state of the evidence? Do you even understand it at a layman's level let alone understand the insanely complex math? Have you heard of the bullet cluster? Do you know about the rotation curve of galaxies? Do you understand anything about the cosmic microwave background and its fluctuations? Do you understand the background theories you're ridiculing? Do you know why General Relativity fits the data we have collected so well? Have you even bothered to find out why scientists believe in these things? Dark matter and dark energy aren't just theories that a bunch of arrogant pricks pulled out of their asses. These are our best attempts to fit multiple kinds of data into a single theory of nature. Your attempt to imply it's just scientists refusing to believe the data is at best childish. At worst you're no better than a flat earther.

Re:Classic case of idiotus not understandus (2, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | about 5 years ago | (#29484979)

Organ music playing in a dramatic way.....

What do you actually know about dark matter and the current state of the evidence? Do you even understand it at a layman's level let alone understand the insanely complex math? Have you heard of the bullet cluster? Do you know about the rotation curve of galaxies? Do you understand anything about the cosmic microwave background and its fluctuations? Do you understand the background theories you're ridiculing? Do you know why General Relativity fits the data we have collected so well? Have you even bothered to find out why scientists believe in these things?

NARRATOR: Tune in next week when the physicist says, "Oh shit! I forgot to divide by two!That changes EVERYTHING!"

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Re:Classic case of idiotus not understandus (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485199)

You're still a prick though.. ;-)

Re:Classic case of idiotus not understandus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485235)

Your attempt to imply it's just scientists refusing to believe the data is at best childish.

I don't think he's implying that scientist are refusing to believe the data. Some (most perhaps) scientists refuse to believe that the current models are wrong (or incomplete) and have therefore introduced the concept of dark matter to account for inconsistencies in the model & data.

Re:Classic case of idiotus not understandus (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 5 years ago | (#29485429)

About 100% of all physicists believe the current models are incomplete. That's why there's so much research in quantum gravity. And dark matter wasn't accepted just after it was introduced. It was accepted because it explained many different unrelated observations, and there's no other model with the same predictive power.

Re:Classic case of idiotus not understandus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485259)

Yes. Yes I do know these things. I would also submit a keen interest in the various mathematical/quantum/dimensional natures of different types of possible multiverse.

Just please stop shouting.

The guy had a good point, this could be an interesting effect worth further study, but I get the feeling it's a known effect. I'm no imaging zooneurologist.

Re:Classic case of idiotus not understandus (2, Insightful)

lennier (44736) | about 5 years ago | (#29485395)

"Do you know why General Relativity fits the data we have collected so well? Have you even bothered to find out why scientists believe in these things?"

One might well wonder, because it's certainly not because GR is philosophically compatible with the rest of 20th century science.

As a matter of hobbyist curiosity, I'm reading up on the life of Einstein and his arguments with the QM people at the moment, and the curious thing that jumps out at me is how much Einstein believed that GR was only a provisional theory, and that the 'true' description of the universe had to be a geometrical theory of continuous fields. Which led him to various configurations of Unified Field Theories, and increasing isolation from the quantum hackers who believed that reality had to be fundamentally discontinuous.

John Wheeler tried to push UFT with geometrodynamics and gave up.

Today, UFT has a sort of funky steampunk aura about it, like quaternions. If it weren't for GR still holding a place in cosmology, Einstein's whole geometrical approach would be considered clever and ambitious but fatally flawed, just as his UFT is.

So yes - why *does* it fit the data? It's not necessarily because it's a literally correct representation of reality. At best it must be an approximation, because about the only thing we know for sure about modern physics is that neither GR nor QFT can be 'true' in a final sense.

Re:Classical case of Arrogantitis Scientificus? (0, Redundant)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 5 years ago | (#29484997)

fMRI is sensitive to changes in blood oxygen content brought about by variations in the way blood is routed through the brain in response to activity. If the salmon's heart isn't beating and it's gills aren't working blood routing isn't going to change and the oxygenation level might go down with some sort of residual function in the neurons but it won't go up and down in sync with a stimulus.

So they're quite right, finding fMRI activity in a dead fish brain is definitely ridiculous. They used the fish for laughs. A more standard subject for this kind of experiment would be a jar of agar or some Jell-O.

Re:Classical case of Arrogantitis Scientificus? (1)

fullfactorial (1338749) | about 5 years ago | (#29485039)

Has anyone even checked if a dead brain can still have flows of energy through its brain? I mean light patterns still reach the retinas, and can still trigger signals, depending on the state of the neurons there.

IANAN (neuroscientist), but I do know that fMRI measures the flow of blood [wikipedia.org] , not energy. I don't know exactly what happens as the brain dies, but it's possible that they just discovered that dying fish brains still have blood flow.

This could also be why these results have not been published. I agree that fMRI methodology is generally sloppy, but scanning a dead salmon is not the best way to prove it. A more convincing argument would be made by replicating prior research and finding ambiguities in those results.

Re:Classical case of Arrogantitis Scientificus? (1)

jimicus (737525) | about 5 years ago | (#29485073)

I mean light patterns still reach the retinas, and can still trigger signals, depending on the state of the neurons there. How long was that salmon dead?

At least a couple of days, I'd imagine, seeing as they bought it from the fish counter at the local supermarket.

Re:Classical case of Arrogantitis Scientificus? (4, Interesting)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#29485223)

The brain can still function when 'brain dead.' Think about it. Your entire brain doesn't die once you don't get enough oxygen for a few minutes, you just can't maintain the feedback loop called consciousness. Just because of that, doesn't mean the cells aren't still functioning. Since you're unconscious, though, you may as well be dead if you can never recover from it.

Consciousness is a rather circular loop in the brain. Minor damage to part of that loop can ensure that you never wake up, unless a path around that damage is formed, which may or may not happen. We've seen people wake up from comas after years, because their brain has formed pathways around the damage.

Then we get into the whole debate of 'what is death?' True brain death would mean that the entire brain is dead, and can never recover from it. Little pockets of cells can survive for a period of time, but they will always die in the end if they aren't getting the oxygen/energy/minerals they need. So, unconscious is dead? No, it's just unconscious. We can distinguish between coma, sleep, death, etc. Terry Schiavo should have been considered dead, since +90% of her brain was dead, but because she showed some basic brainstem functions, people said she was alive. In reality, she was less alive and less able to be revived than someone who hasn't had a pulse in ten minutes!

Don't believe any statistics ... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 5 years ago | (#29484769)

... which you didn't fake yourself.

But seriously, it happens not only in medicine. It also happens in physics. [princeton.edu] [pdf]

Re:Don't believe any statistics ... (2, Interesting)

oldhack (1037484) | about 5 years ago | (#29485115)

Yep. What little I remember of stats is that it is an extraordinarily delicate tool, every little theorem is couched in uber cautious qualifications. All the more reasons to be cautious of stat-based findings of math-impaired social scientists, and medicine isn't all that far ahead in terms math literacy.

\me slaps fMRI researches with a dead salmon (1)

binarybum (468664) | about 5 years ago | (#29484775)

and wonders what goes through the salmon's mind whilst doing so.

Re:\me slaps fMRI researches with a dead salmon (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 5 years ago | (#29484829)

and wonders what goes through the salmon's mind whilst doing so.

"I'm not dead yet!"

Pining for the fjords? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484797)

No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable fish, the salmon, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Re:Pining for the fjords? (1)

Artuir (1226648) | about 5 years ago | (#29485151)

Why do I read that in a Baldric voice from Blackadder the Third? Tony Robinson cracks me up.

Re:Pining for the fjords? (1)

nozzo (851371) | about 5 years ago | (#29485293)

He had a cunning plan: Stick the dead salmon up a nostril then stick his head into the fMRI machine. That way the results would be skewed and somehow that'll benefit Blackadder and at the same time annoy the Queen to produce a humourous situation where Blackadder has to explain the salmon away to avoid being beheaded. OpenBlackadder anyone? :-)

Spectroscopic MRI will obsolete fMRI (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484887)

fMRI is a blunt instrument compared to what ultra high resolution spectroscopic MRI will show us in the future.

Current MRI is tuned to the proton nmr signal (and variations of it). As magnet technology advances and ginourmous gradients are achieved, it will be possible to obtain full spectroscopic data (chemical shift) in addition to positional data. Not only for the proton but for other isotopes that produce an NMR signal (of which all the CHONPS elements have at least one). As aquisition electronics speed increases it should eventually be possible to show this data in real time (molecules in motion). Of course it will be a trade-off between positional data resolution and spectroscopic data resolution, but this will be a very powerful technique. fMRI is just the tip of the iceberg and only a first step toward spectroscopic MRI proper.

That said (and without RTFA of course), I wonder how long the salmon was dead? What temperature was it stored at? The animal need not necessarily be alive for a stimulus to produce an effect. (Thinking of batteries and frog legs...) As long as the bulk of the cellular machinery is intact...

OK, I broke down and read the pdf. This report is coming from a psyhchology department! (I expected biology) I'd wait until the chemists and physicists weigh in to make any conclusions about this observation.

Re:Spectroscopic MRI will obsolete fMRI (1)

Nemus (639101) | about 5 years ago | (#29485243)

Firstly, numerous universities bundle neuroscience and related fields of engineering into their psychology department, so it seems pretty apparent that this wasn't a bunch of cognitive psych "Let' s build a graph/model!" junk. Also, its pretty common for psychologists to hold degrees in a "hard" science as well, so your bias is probably rooted in ignorance. Secondly, it seems to me like that their point wasn't that the fMRI wasn't sensitive enough, or particular enough. Instead the problem seems to be a problem of statistically expected random noise. Their point seems to be that users of an fMRI should bear in mind that their marvelous magical machine can generate "real" errors, and that basic, common-sense multiple comparison habits should be developed, instead of a take a picture, slap a stat against it approach. Apparently you did not, in fact, read the pdf.

wired /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484907)

Posted by: lolcatz | 09/18/09 | 8:56 pm
Fridays must be slow news days at Wired

Posted by: xznofile | 09/18/09 | 9:24 pm
Some scientists are so blindered by convention that they canâ(TM)t recognize obvious potential when they see it, I mean who says culinary post-processing can only be done on fish?

Posted by: necro144 | 09/18/09 | 9:35 pm
this is true. Iâ(TM)d like to see the voxels of a truffle when exposed to a close up of a snout.

Step it up /.
Even Wired is one-upping you guys.

Discussion (2, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | about 5 years ago | (#29484927)

From the poster:

Can we conclude from this data that the salmon is engaging in the perspective-taking task? Certainly not. What we can determine is that random noise in the EPI timeseries may yield spurious results if multiple comparisons are not controlled for. Adaptive methods for controlling the FDR and FWER are excellent options and are widely available in all major fMRI analysis packages. We argue that relying on standard statistical thresholds (p 8) is an ineffective control for multiple comparisons. We further argue that the vast majority of fMRI studies should be utilizing multiple comparisons correction as standard practice in the computation of their statistics.

And why wasn't this published? The very conclusion is that we should be more careful when trusting fMRI results and conduct more testing before jumping to conclusion.

Re:Discussion (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 5 years ago | (#29485063)

And why wasn't this published?

Maybe the reviewers considered the experiment a bit fishy ...

Re:Discussion (2, Insightful)

Xyrus (755017) | about 5 years ago | (#29485113)

It's always easier to jump to conclusions than to jump from them.

~X~

Re:Discussion (2, Informative)

yali (209015) | about 5 years ago | (#29485367)

And why wasn't this published? The very conclusion is that we should be more careful when trusting fMRI results and conduct more testing before jumping to conclusion.

Perhaps because what he's saying isn't new? As far as I can tell he's merely restating a substantive point that was recently made by someone else [wiley.com] , which attracted substantial publicity [newsweek.com] as well as sober rebuttals [wiley.com] (along the lines of: nobody actually uses the flawed statistical methods that you're critiquing). All this guy is doing is illustrating the point in an absurd and attention-grabbing way.

Re:Discussion (1)

noundi (1044080) | about 5 years ago | (#29485463)

And why wasn't this published? The very conclusion is that we should be more careful when trusting fMRI results and conduct more testing before jumping to conclusion.

Perhaps because what he's saying isn't new? As far as I can tell he's merely restating a substantive point that was recently made by someone else [wiley.com] , which attracted substantial publicity [newsweek.com] as well as sober rebuttals [wiley.com] (along the lines of: nobody actually uses the flawed statistical methods that you're critiquing). All this guy is doing is illustrating the point in an absurd and attention-grabbing way.

Fair enough, I wasn't aware of that. In that case, why the hell did I read this nonsense post?

Peer review (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484935)

We are not and will not be privy (at least for some time) to the reasons this research has been rejected by multiple peer-reviewed journals. Multiple rejections makes me as a researcher think that there are bigger problems then wording - I would lean heavily towards there being methodology flaws. I'd have to wonder (which I can't tell from the Wired article, a publication not known for its neurological expertise) some very basic questions that most everyone will be able to understand the importance of - why not multiple dead salmon, why no live salmon, and where is the discussion of any existing fish fMRI. I am not an expert in fMRI methodology or interpretation, but based on the friends I have that are, it's pretty complex. I'm not sure that this work makes a good argument towards the points this fellow is trying to hammer down.

Neil review (1)

SEWilco (27983) | about 5 years ago | (#29485067)

So you're saying that this is dead research which someone put into Slashdot and it seemed to show signs of life under this extreme condition.

I read the summary, but not the article and (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484963)

I have no idea what the hell this is talking about. Thanks again, dotslash!

Monty Python Science... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29484971)

Dead salmons swim on water. What else swims on water? Wood! Right. So dead salmons must be made out of wood. What else is made out of wood? Witches! Right. And witches can think! So the dead salmon must be thinking!

Brains... Need *more* braaiinnss.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485043)

Zombie Eaters...

Maybe it was brain activity? (3, Interesting)

Eudial (590661) | about 5 years ago | (#29485081)

Well, maybe what they saw wasn't a false positive? Maybe there is residual functionality of the brain some time after death, the same way you can electrically stimulate the muscles of a dead body to make them twitch. Is it that unthinkable that visual impulses have some effect on the brain, that death instantly renders every single braincell inoperable?

Re:Maybe it was brain activity? (1)

Eudial (590661) | about 5 years ago | (#29485089)

Uh, I think I meant the last sentence to read "that death doesn't instantly render every single braincell inoperable?"

Re:Maybe it was brain activity? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about 5 years ago | (#29485195)

Doesn't fMRI measure blood flow through the brain, rather than electrical impulses in the neurons?

Re:Maybe it was brain activity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485387)

Yep. The electrical impulses correlate with hemodynamic activity, so it's an indirect evaluation of neural activity.

Re:Maybe it was brain activity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485417)

Why are you assuming this is a recently dead salmon?

Slashdot shoud take this into account (1)

the person standing (1134789) | about 5 years ago | (#29485085)

and add a -1 braindead option. this could solve 95% of all moderation issues

Lifespan of a beheaded head (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 5 years ago | (#29485091)

everything squared [everything2.com] ... it's either post nonsense or do dishes and cook brunch.

Vegetarians got another argument (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 years ago | (#29485153)

That fish that you are eating is watching you... and feeling it.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485159)

... if I understand the research correctly, it's suggesting that if I want a zombie army, salmon is the best place to start. And it will know when I'm pissed off from the look on my face.

Obvious Conclusion (1)

JumperCable (673155) | about 5 years ago | (#29485191)

The Deadites are watching.

Douglas Adams would be proud. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485271)

Truly, this Salmon is causing a lot of Doubt.

Cool! (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 5 years ago | (#29485281)

Very seriously, this is cool research! The really sad thing here is that they have trouble publishing. This shows that the interest in medical research is less on truth and knowledge and more on stunts and commercializable results.

Surprise! You're Dead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29485295)

Guess What ? It Never Ends...
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