Mumford & Stats: Up Your Neuroscience Game

Jeanette Mumford, furious at the lack of accessible tutorials on neuroimaging statistics, has created her own Tumblr to distribute her knowledge to the masses.

I find examples like these heartening; researchers and statisticians providing help to newcomers and veterans of all stripes. Listservs, while useful, often suffer from poorly worded questions, opaque responses, and overspecificity - the issues are individual, and so are the answers, which go together like highly specific shapes of toast in a specialized toaster.* Tutorials like Mumford's are more like pancake batter spread out over a griddle, covering a wide area and seeping into the drip pans of understanding, while being sprinkled with chocolate chips of insight, lightly buttered with good humor, and drizzled with the maple syrup of kindness.

I also find tutorials like these useful because - let's admit it - we're all slightly stupid when it comes to statistics. Have you ever tried explaining it to your dad, and ended up feeling like a fool? Clearly, we need all the help we can get. If you've ever had to doublecheck why, for example, a t-test works the way it does, or brush up on how contrast weights are made, this website is for you. (People who never had to suffer to understand statistics, on the other hand, just like people who don't have any problems writing, are disgusting and should be avoided.)

Jeanette has thirty-two videos covering the basics of statistics and their application to neuroimaging data, a compression of one of her semester-long fMRI data courses which should be required viewing for any neophyte. More recent postings report on developments and concerns in neuroimaging methods, such as collinearity, orthogonalization, nonparametric thresholding, and whether you should date fellow graduate students in your cohort. (I actually haven't read all of the posts that closely, but I'm assuming that something that important is probably in there somewhere.) And, unlike myself, she doesn't make false promises and she posts regularly; you get to stay current on what's hot, what's not, and, possibly, you can begin to make sense of those knotty methods sections. At least you'll begin to make some sense of the gibberish your advisor mutters in your general direction the next time he wants you to do a new analysis on the default pancake network - the network of regions that is activated in response to a contrast of pancakes versus waffles, since they are matched on everything but texture.**

It is efforts such as this that make the universe of neuroimaging, if not less complex, at least more comprehensible, less bewildering; more approachable, less terrifying. And any effort like that deserves its due measure of praise and pancakes.

*It was only after writing this that I realized you put bread into a toaster - toast is what comes out - but I decided to just own it.

**Do not steal this study idea from me.