Summary and Analysis

A new study reported in Nature, a scientific journal based in London, England, found that the most common brain imaging studies in psychiatry—those that use a small sample to compare brain structure or function with psychological measures—are likely to be false due to the small data sets used. The researchers used very large data sets and found that the correlations between brain volume and function and psychological states were much smaller than individual brain imaging studies have suggested.

This new study may call into question the brain imaging used by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, and others, to conclude that brain scans “prove” the validity of what is called the Brain Disease Model of Addiction, or BDMA. See, for example, this report on the BDMA published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Excerpted from Nature

The study is titled Reproducible brain-wide association studies require thousands of individuals and was reported on by Mad In America (Nature: Brain Imaging Studies Are Most Likely False) and the New York Times (Brain-Imaging Studies Hampered by Small Data Sets, Study Finds).