That’s My Soul Up There

Dead salmon (not, apparently, frozen in a waterfall) responds to pictures of people. Not.

A dead salmon has become a scientific celebrity after its brain supposedly lit up when shown pictures of humans during a brain scan.

Some bloggers last week reported that the fish was still thinking or that the research is evidence of an ethereal soul. However, the study was done to show that data from an fMRI brain scan can lead to false positives — misleading results — if not carefully analyzed.

Yes, the salmon was dead — bought in a lifeless state at a fish market and scanned an hour later. No, the results are not shocking or miraculous. Like many scientific studies, the study and its results, presented earlier this year in a poster at a conference, are technical and rather bland:


In a nutshell, the data reported by Bennett and colleagues in no way suggests the salmon’s brain was functioning, but rather reveal anomalies that can be misleading if you’re not careful.

In other words, sloppy statistics can lead to some really, really silly conclusions. Where have we heard that before?

Oh, yeah. Here.

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