A team of researchers have discovered that the software used to analyze images of the brain gives significantly different results depending on whether it’s used on a Mac or PC. It means the measurements gathered on one machine can be up to 15% different than those gathered on another — using exactly the same images — which is a serious issue that medical professionals and developers need to fix… fast.
The implications of this can be hugely damaging. As an extreme example, you could visit one doctor who uses a PC who tells you have a brain tumor the size of a pea, while another doctor running a Mac could tell you it’s the size of a marble. That’s how serious this issue is, and why it needs to be fixed as quickly as possible.
The findings were obtained by a team of German researchers who took data from 30 brain scans and analyzed them using a piece of software called FreeSurfer, which is, according to Gizmodo, a major medical image analysis program which can be used to measure parts of the brain.
They ran this software on machines running Windows, and machines running Mac OS X, and found that not only did these two operating systems throw up different results, but that they sometimes differed by up to 15%!
Across most sections there was at least a 2-5 percent variation in the answers. But in the parahippocampal and entorhinal cortex, the answers diverged by as much as 15 percent. A 15 percent variation just because of a Mac OS update.
The worst thing about this is that it’s not clear why there’s such a huge difference, and what needs to be done to fix it. Neuroskeptic insists that the developers behind FreeSurfer should not be blamed, because — wrongly — similar packages are likely to be subjected to exactly the same issues.
Regardless of whose problem this is, it needs to be fixed.