Psychologists simplifying brain-imaging data analysis

White matter fiber architecture of the brain. Credit: Human Connectome Project.

Neuroscience research has made incredible strides toward revealing the inner workings of our brains – how we make decisions, plan for the future or experience emotions – thanks in part to technological advances, but barriers in sharing and accessing that data stymie progress in the field.

Stanford psychologists are addressing those barriers through a new way of organizing brain-imaging that simplifies and helps researchers collaborate more effectively – they call it BIDS (Brain Imaging Data Structure).

The easier it becomes to analyze and organize data, said Russell Poldrack, a professor of psychology, the more easily that data can be shared among researchers, leading to more transparency and more progress in understanding the brain.

“We’ve been interested for a long time in finding ways to share data between groups,” said Poldrack, director of the Stanford Center for Reproducible Neuroscience. “Sharing data is a good thing because it allows different research groups to reuse data and maximizes its potential.”

MRI analysis today

Thousands of research MRI studies are performed every year generating substantial amounts of data. However, there’s no consensus on how that data should be organized.

Conceivably, you could have two neuroscience researchers working side-by-side in the same lab analyzing the same MRI scans and recording the data differently. These labs also experience significant turnover with doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars leaving for teaching and other research positions. New researchers entering the lab may need to decipher data in a format they’re not accustomed to. The dilemma gets further complicated as new data analysis…

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