Dead Fish Tell Tales, Alright.

If you’ve ever wondered what a dead fish is thinking, LiveScience has the data, thanks to a team that gave brain scans to a dead salmon:

It began in 2005 when Bennett picked up a salmon at a local market. An hour later he and colleagues stuck the fish in an fMRI scanner and did a bunch of different scans as part of a project at Dartmouth College to develop MRI protocols. They had previously scanned a pumpkin and a dead bird.

“The salmon was approximately 18 inches long, weighed 3.8 lbs, and was not alive at the time of scanning,” the poster presentation states. “The salmon was shown a series of photographs depicting human individuals in social situations with a specified emotional valence. The salmon was asked to determine what emotion the individual in the photo must have been experiencing.”

“By far it was our crowning achievement in terms of ridiculous objects to scan,” Bennett recently wrote, on his blog, of the fish.

Another look at the data

Then in 2008, Bennett was working with one of his advisers on a presentation about false positives in MRI data, specifically about misleading results that can come from what’s called a “multiple comparisons problem.” Bennett ran his 2005 fish data through some statistical programs and, sure enough, three false positives showed up in the salmon’s brain.

The findings have been submitted to a journal — as a cautionary tale about data interpretation — but not yet accepted for publication….

You find what you’re looking for, far too often and in far too many unexpected ways.