The 18-inch-long Atlantic salmon lay perfectly still for its [fMRI] brain scan. Emotional pictures —a triumphant young girl just out of a somersault, a distressed waiter who had just dropped a plate — flashed in front of the fish as a scientist read the standard instruction script aloud.
By the end of the experiment, neuroscientist Craig Bennett and his colleagues at Dartmouth College could clearly discern in the scan of the salmon’s brain a beautiful, red-hot area of activity that lit up during emotional scenes.
An Atlantic salmon that responded to human emotions would have been an astounding discovery, guaranteeing publication in a top-tier journal and a life of scientific glory for the researchers. Except for one thing. The fish was dead.
Academics don't appreciate having their careers disrupted by "transformative research" any more than businesses appreciate being disrupted by new competitors; reviewers don't want anything funded that would question whatever papers qualified them for tenure. Bureaucratic conservatism coupled with conservative "peer review" means that no cutting-edge research will be funded. That's one of the beauties of fMRI research - since you get to choose how to analyze the data after the fact, you can nearly always show something to justify your funding, just like the pyramidologists.
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