Blog Review: Small Gray Matters

The blog reviewed here is ‘Small Gray Matters‘. The blog has a simple but effective design with a blue title pane and for the articles, black text on a cream background with hypertext links appearing as a pale green (or at least it looked like a pale green). On the right hand pane, articles are indexed in the monthly archives and also in categories. There is also a summary of recent posts, links and an RSS feed. I couldn’t find an About section but reading through the articles, the author works (or has worked) in fMRI research, is most likely American judging from the title and conference attendance, has graduated in the not too distant past, with a background in statistics and experience in several programming languages. The impression I got from reading this blog, is that the author is exceptionally intelligent and is able to bring this intellect to bear on many different domains within the neurosciences, hardly ever deviating from making a serious analysis of the topic to hand and always seeming to have a very deep, highly structured understanding of the subject matter. My guess is that this approach allows for the rapid acquisition of domain expertise and with continued application within the field of interest – fMRI – would all other things assumed, at some point result in the author becoming one of the leading figures in this field. Of course, this is all rather speculative but is the impression I got on reading through the blog. Another interesting feature of the blog is that the posts are very infrequent (indeed with a one year hiatus at one point) but of very high quality.

The first archived article dates back to June 2006 and is a defence of neuroimaging in response to a Seed article. This is followed by a really excellent article on ‘Neurons, blood flow, and their intimate relationship‘ and I would recommend this to people with an interest in fMRI as the author covers some of the reasoning behind the fMRI methodology starting with an analysis of an important paper in Nature by Logothetis. The author goes on to say

The reason most people like fMRI is because it optimizes a bunch of trade-offs in a way that previous methods haven’t been able to do

The author follows this up with another post ‘How Much Should Scientists Worry?’ which contains another great quote

We don’t do experiments thinking we’ve got all the assumptions covered; we do them in spite of the fact that we know we’ll be wrong a good deal of the time. Because that’s the only way science can work

In a 2006 article titled ‘More on fMRI‘, the author makes some comments that preempt the debate that was started with Vul et al’s Voodoo paper (reviewed here) after looking at the problems posed by the size of the datasets produced in fMRI studies

Given that level of complexity, it’s not surprising that people have generally stuck with familiar methods imported from other areas of behavioral research. T-tests on subtractive contrasts aren’t necessarily the most natural way to explore brain activity, but they’re what’s closest to standard analyses of experimental treatments in other fields

In this article ‘trendsetting the fMRI literature‘ the author looks at using PubMed to identify trends in fMRI research  (covering an area of research examined in a study reviewed here). The author is able to add an original slant to this subject as is the case with other topics examined.

I would recommend this blog to those with an interest in neuroscience for insights into important developments in the field.


You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast).


If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail


The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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