New software advances brain image research

June 28, 2011

A new software program that allows neuroscientists to produce single brain images pulled from hundreds of individual studies has been developed by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, trimming weeks and even months from the research process.

The new software can be programmed to comb scientific literature for published articles relevant to a particular topic, and then to extract all of the brain scan images from those articles, the researchers said. Using a statistical process called “meta-analysis,” the researchers are then able to produce a consensus brain activation image reflecting hundreds of studies at a time.

The research team was able to distinguish people who were experiencing physical pain during brain scanning from people who were performing a difficult memory task or viewing emotional pictures, with nearly 80 percent accuracy.

“Because the new approach is entirely automated, it can analyze hundreds of different experimental tasks or mental states nearly instantaneously instead of requiring researchers to spend weeks or months conducting just one analysis,” said Tal Yarkoni.

Tal Yarkoni, et al., Large-scale automated synthesis of human functional neuroimaging data, Nature Methods, 2011; [DOI:10.1038/nmeth.1635]