Improving methods to combine and summarise brain imaging studies
Tench CR, Tanasescu R, Auer DP, Cottam WJ, Constantinescu CS (2014) Coordinate Based Meta-Analysis of Functional Neuroimaging Data Using Activation Likelihood Estimation; Full Width Half Max and Group Comparisons. PLoS ONE 9(9): e106735
Functional brain imaging can tell us what happens in the brain when people experience pain. Examining the results from all published functional imaging studies of pain helps us to find out which parts of the brain are usually involved in pain processing. This helps us to design future research that will improve our understanding of peoples’ experiences of pain.
We wanted to find out if we could improve ways of analysing and summarising the results from different studies.
How the study was carried out
Data from previously published functional imaging studies, and computer generated test data, was used to test the newer methods against those used previously. These tests were compared both visually and mathematically to show their improvement.
What the study found
We found that the new method was less affected by the number of studies involved in the analysis, and less likely to have false results than other methods. The certainty with which we could find important changes in brain function that are linked to pain was improved.
Significance of the study to Pain Centre's research
These improvements help us to carry out more reliable and sensitive research to look for the most important results from pain studies across the world, which use functional imaging. This helps us to make better conclusions about the ways that pain perception works and also to guide our future studies based on this past research.