Researchers from the University of Amsterdam have reignited a long debate over the soundness of scientific findings by trying and failing to replicate the results of several studies that claimed correlations between brain structure and behavior.
Wouter Boekel, of the University of Amsterdam, and colleagues analyzed and tried to replicate the findings of five studies that reported 17 separate positive structural brain-behavior correlations. The researchers conducted structural MRI and DWI scans of 36 students, and then administered questionnaires and psychological tests identical to those administered in the five studies.
Boekel and his team pre-registered the study’s methodology and statistical analysis so as to not change the parameters of the study in order to create positive results—a much debated step in the scientific process.
The researchers found that none of the 17 brain-behavior correlations were significant during replication using Bayesian statistics. However, the researchers said that this doesn’t mean that the correlations are false, but only that a single replication cannot be conclusive when confirming or refuting a claim.
The researchers hope that their findings further support the argument for more preregistered science.
An attempt to replicate the results of some recent neuroscience papers that claimed to find correlations between human brain structure and behavior has drawn a blank.
The new paper is by University of Amsterdam researchers Wouter Boekel and colleagues and it’s in press now at Cortex. You candownload it here from the webpage of one of the authors, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers.
Neuroskeptic readers will know Wagenmakers as a critic of statistical fallacies in psychology and a leading advocate of preregistration, which is something I never tire of promoting either.