Radiology lives: cheesy fMRI study bags an Ig Nobel

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is rightly celebrated as being an important tool in medical diagnostics.

In September, though, the technology also gained the dubious honour of gaining an Ig Nobel prize, a parody of the Nobel Prize which is awarded every autumn to celebrate unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research.

Specifically, the scientific humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, which hands out the awards, this year decided the medicine Ig Nobel should go to a paper titled ‘The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study’.

FMRI “reveals that the internal and external globus pallidus and the substantia nigra belonging to the basal ganglia are more activated in participants who dislike or dis-want to eat cheese than in other participants who like to eat cheese,” said the authors.

The research seems likely to attract debate over the possible uses now being found for MRI machines that can cost up to several million dollars apiece.

The fMRI study is far from the most trivial piece of research to appear in this year’s Ig Nobels, though; the peace prize, for instance, went to a team that showed how the regular playing of a didgeridoo is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring.

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