Reliability of neuroscience research questioned

Bristol University: New research has questioned the reliability of neuroscience studies, saying that conclusions could be misleading due to small sample sizes.

A team led by academics from the University of Bristol reviewed 48 articles on neuroscience meta-analysis which were published in 2011 and concluded that most had an average power of around 20 per cent – a finding which means the chance of the average study discovering the effect being investigated is only one in five.

The paper, being published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience today [10 April], reveals that small, low-powered studies are ‘endemic’ in neuroscience, producing unreliable research which is inefficient and wasteful.

It focuses on how low statistical power – caused by low sample size of studies, small effects being investigated, or both – can be misleading and produce more false scientific claims than high-powered studies.

It also illustrates how low power reduces a study’s ability to detect any effects and shows that when discoveries are claimed, they are more likely to be false or misleading.

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