Researchers promote collecting and sharing data from brain studies with their fMRI Data Center. Clockwise from upper left: Scott Grafton, Daniel Rockmore, Michael Gazzaniga and John Van Horn. (photo by Joe Mehling 69)
The dream of saving and sharing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data is quickly becoming a reality, according to Dartmouth researchers who run the fMRI Data Center, which archives and distributes the raw data from studies that track brain activity using fMRI. The Dartmouth researchers wrote an essay in the May issue of Nature Neuroscience about the initial reluctance and gradual acceptance of the center, and they describe the many attributes a center such as theirs offers the scientific community.
"The fMRI Data Center was created with sharing information in mind," says John Van Horn, the lead author on the paper and a Research Associate Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "We wanted to advance and expand the cognitive neuroscience field by making the raw data accessible to more people for free."
According to the essay, the faculty who created the fMRI Data Center in 2000 were met with initial resistance from fellow neuroscientists. Some researchers were hesitant to give away their data; some questioned whether new science could arise from old data; and others thought that the technical hurdles could not be overcome. Despite these concerns, the Dartmouth group went ahead and teamed up with the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience and made it a requirement to include raw fMRI data when submitting research to the publication. With initial support from the National Science Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health, the computer equipment was purchased and fMRI Data Center was established.
Sue Knapp | Dartmouth College
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