Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Neuroscience, Personality, Psychological Disorders, Research Methods, Social Psychology.

Description: What does the brain of someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder look like? How about the brain of someone recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? How about the brain of a depressed person … a happy person … an introvert … a risk-taker ….? The list could go on and on. For a number of years now we have had the ability, using scanning procedures such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging to not have to wait to do post-mortem analyses of the brains of people with conditions or profiles of interest. Now we can get a finely detailed look at their brains, safely, while they are alive. So, now we must know a LOT about what many many conditions of interest lo like in the brain, right? As well, knowing this could be helping us with diagnosis, treatment, early identification and prevention of all manner of conditions of interest and of challenges for those who experience them (you would think/hope). BUT, add this fact into your considerations: MRI machines are VERY expensive and renting/buying time on them for research purposes, while better than it was when they were first available is still the most daunting line item in the budget of any research project planning to make use of MRI tools. Think about what effect that fact might have on the sort of research I mentioned above at the start of this post. Think small sample sizes. Think what sorts of issues that might raise for research of this sort. What kinds of studies would be most challenged by small samples? What kinds of studies would not be challenged (at least as much) by small samples? What should be done about this? Once you have your thoughts in order, read thorough the article linked below to see what neuroscience psychology researchers are talking about in this area.

Source: M.R.I.s Are Finding Connections Between Our Brain Activity and Psychology, Kim Tingley, Studies Show, The New York Times

Date: April 19, 2022

Image by geralt from Pixabay

Article Link:


So, did you predict a replication concern or crisis akin to that seen in social psychology? Did you tik that such a concern would apply directly to studies looking for general brain structure – psychology connections? Did you suggest that the concern might not apply very much or at all to studies looking for real time changes in peoples’ brains as they do specific things such as try to focus and concentrate of specific things? Power analyses are things that students learn about in their first courses on research methodology and statistic in psychology. Power analysis basically asks, how many research participants are needed in order to be comfortably certain that a finding or a difference of a specified (expected) size is real as opposed to simply being a sample specific random anomaly. Replication (rather than just more research) is needed is an increasingly loudly heard phrase in psychology research communities. Replication efforts are challenged by the fact that negative results (e.g., we did not find the significant results in our study that they found in theirs) are much less likely to be viewed by journal editorial boards as publishable. At least, top tier journals such as Nature, noted in the article and included in the Further Reading section below, are starting to include article looking at important questions such as just how many participants do we need in order to be more confident in the replicability of our studies?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some areas where researchers are looking for connections between brain structures and things of psychological interest?
  2. Beyond knowing more about the brain, why might the sorts of things addressed in the previous question be important to know about?
  3. What are the key replication issues in “brain psychology” these days (and what types of research are NOT impacted by these concerns? What should be done to address the replication concerns (especially given the still VERY steep costs of MRI access)?

References (Read Further):

Marek, S., Tervo-Clemmens, B., Calabro, F. J., Montez, D. F., Kay, B. P., Hatoum, A. S., … & Dosenbach, N. U. (2022). Reproducible brain-wide association studies require thousands of individuals. Nature, 1-7. Link

Szucs, D., & Ioannidis, J. P. (2020). Sample size evolution in neuroimaging research: An evaluation of highly-cited studies (1990–2012) and of latest practices (2017–2018) in high-impact journals. NeuroImage, 221, 117164. Link

Szucs, D., & Ioannidis, J. P. (2020). Sample size evolution in neuroimaging research: An evaluation of highly-cited studies (1990–2012) and of latest practices (2017–2018) in high-impact journals. NeuroImage, 221, 117164. Link

The ABCD Study in the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States, Link

Rosenberg, M. D., Finn, E. S., Scheinost, D., Papademetris, X., Shen, X., Constable, R. T., & Chun, M. M. (2016). A neuromarker of sustained attention from whole-brain functional connectivity. Nature neuroscience, 19(1), 165-171. Link

Barch, D. M., & Yarkoni, T. (2013). Introduction to the special issue on reliability and replication in cognitive and affective neuroscience research. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 13(4), 687-689. Link

Yeung, A. W. (2017). Do neuroscience journals accept replications? A survey of literature. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 468. Link