2644: fMRI Billboard
Title text: [other side] If the first word of an instruction you're given starts with the same letter as your crush's name, for that step imagine the experimenter is your crush.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, is a method of imaging brain activity by detecting blood flow changes apparent from magnetic differences between oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin. Scientists use fMRI to try to detect deception and false memories, plan brain surgery, and understand the relationship between brain structures and cognition, among many other investigations. Volunteer research subjects participate in such studies by lying inside large toroidal scanners while conducting tasks with projected images, sounds, and the like.
This comic shows a billboard erected by a neuroscience department in an attempt at sabotaging a rival department's volunteer subject compliance with their fMRI study instructions, by suggesting behaviors which would likely produce unexpected results, such as recalling a frightening memory after seeing similar stimulus slides, or imagining the lab technician is a romantic interest when reading words that begin with the same letter as their name. This is funny because academic department rivalries do not usually lead to sabotage, and in the rare cases when they do, it's usually clandestine instead of so absurdly blatant. The comic also shows neuroscience in terms of the technologies used to study it, and how experiment instructions can influence its development.
Following such suggestions or even inadvertently remembering them during an fMRI could very well interfere with its results. fMRI experiments are often criticized because they have low statistical power and can easily be confounded by experiment subject error in following instructions, among many other variables. In a famous 2009 study, a dead fish was shown to have apparent evidence of brain activity when scanned with ordinary fMRI techniques. In 2015, discovery of a statistical error invalidated at least 40,000 fMRI studies. Subsequently in 2017, many more fMRI results were further discredited due to poor software parameter selection.
The title text indicates that the sabotaging instructions are printed on both sides of the billboard, suggesting that it might have been erected on the grounds of the targeted rival department. Alternately, the instructions on the other side may be intended to disrupt research at the other institution.
- [A large, building-sized billboard rises over what appears to be a college campus. The sign is supported by two sturdy planks disappearing behind one of two long one story buildings lying next to each other. The board is higher than the buildings and almost as long as the one it stands behind. That building seems to have a flat roof where the other has a peaked roof. It could, though, be a matter of perspective, and that both buildings have the same kind of peaked roof. There are several windows visible in both buildings and a door in the middle of the one with the billboard. There is a forest behind the buildings. In front of the main building there is a path with a round area just outside the door. The path goes past the next building, with yet another round area between the buildings. These round areas are where two paths crosses. Megan is standing outside the door, Cueball walks towards the round area between the buildings, Ponytail sits on the grass between the two paths going away from the buildings, she sits near a tree. Closer to the tree and also closer to the buildings another Ponytail like girl is standing together with Hairbun. The sign reads:]
- ⚠ Student fMRI study volunteers ⚠
- Remember, when you're in the scanner, if you see a slide that's similar to one they already showed you, think as hard as you can about your scariest memory.
- [Caption below panel:]
- A rival neuroscience department keeps trying to sabotage our experiments.
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