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Laura Sanders, Frame of mind

fMRI’s birthday lesson: Don’t ignore weird things you don’t understand

SN Prime | July 30, 2012 | Vol. 2, No. 29

For 20 years now, scientists have been spying on the brain. The technique they use, called functional MRI, has changed the face of brain science, illuminating aspects of the human mind at work without the need for brain surgery or radio­active tracers.

Just lie in a noisy metal tube for a while, and then presto — out pops a gorgeous image of a live brain. (OK, not really. Before that presto comes lots of complicated work, like preprocessing the data, choosing the right comparison, figuring out exactly where to look, fancy statistical tests and more. And of course, scientists still don’t agree on what exactly the pretty pictures represent. But still.)

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