From Mad in America: A recent article written by experts in MRI brain scan technology criticizes famous scientific journals of psychiatry. It says that many of these leading psychiatric journals have published research which did not have proper proof or made claims which were not supported by evidence. In other words, these journals have published incorrect research based on MRI technology.
The article was written by Daniel Weinberger and Eugenia Radulescu from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, an elite medical college, and appears in the respected journal JAMA Psychiatry.
This is the second time Weinberger and Radulescu have written about this issue with MRI studies, the last being in 2016 and published in The American Journal of Psychiatry. At that time, they made suggestions about how MRI studies can be written in order to not make incorrect claims.
Since then, 46 studies employing MRI scans have been published in top-tier journals such as JAMA Psychiatry and The American Journal of Psychiatry. However, the researchers note that NONE of these studies incorporated the suggested wording. Even worse, all 46 of these studies concluded that the observed brain structure changes were harmful. In other words, they again made claims about brain and psychological functioning without proper proof.
Weinberger and Radulescu highlight that MRI scans are subject to numerous factors that can lead to wrong interpretation. They are not like direct measurements of the brain. Instead, MRIs detect small magnetic changes within the brain, which can be influenced by various factors.
What is seen in MRI scans could be caused by many simple factors such as water content, a person’s body weight, cholesterol levels, slight head movements, hormone levels, time of day, and even activities like exercise and mental tasks. If a researcher is not careful, there is a big risk of incorrect conclusions.
The article is one of many that has warned researchers of misunderstanding MRI technology, especially when it comes to mental health claims. Another recent study found that researchers can reach completely opposite conclusions when analyzing the same MRI data.
In summary, Weinberger and Radulescu urge psychiatry journals to use language that is accurate and shows clearly that the data from MRIs is often preliminary and inconclusive.
This article was originally published in Mad in America and can be accessed here.
This is an AI generated version shortened and edited for the South Asian audience.