Through an image analysis package called FreeSurfer, German researchers compared brain scan images on Macs and PCs and found that, oddly, the brain scans appeared differently on each computer, even though the same brain scans were used for each. FreeSurfer, a highly-used medical image analysis program, seems to have a bit of a problem on its hands. The findings of this study causes serious doubt in the medical field, and raises questions about how brain abnormalities are analyzed on computers.
This study found differences in regional volume depending on the version of FreeSurfer used. When the researchers ran the same version of the software on a Mac and a PC, it also caused differences. Heck, even the fact that a Mac had been updated, or not, caused differences in the brain scan.
The level of differences between computers varied depending on brain location. Between versions there was a 5-15 percent difference. For Mac vs PS and Mac OS updates it was closer to 2-5 percent, but in the worst regions it was almost a 15 percent difference. The reason for this variability is unclear.
FreeSurfer actually warns against mixing and matching versions. It’s important for both patients and medical staff to be aware of issues like this that arise so that easily-avoided problems can be diminished, especially when something as important as the brain is involved. When your life is on the line, the variance should be 0.000 percent difference between versions. Anything more is unacceptable.