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BMC Neurosci. 2010 Jan 14;11:5. doi: 10.1186/1471-2202-11-5.

The problem of pseudoreplication in neuroscientific studies: is it affecting your analysis?

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Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Cambridge Computational Biology Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0WA, UK.



Pseudoreplication occurs when observations are not statistically independent, but treated as if they are. This can occur when there are multiple observations on the same subjects, when samples are nested or hierarchically organised, or when measurements are correlated in time or space. Analysis of such data without taking these dependencies into account can lead to meaningless results, and examples can easily be found in the neuroscience literature.


A single issue of Nature Neuroscience provided a number of examples and is used as a case study to highlight how pseudoreplication arises in neuroscientific studies, why the analyses in these papers are incorrect, and appropriate analytical methods are provided. 12% of papers had pseudoreplication and a further 36% were suspected of having pseudoreplication, but it was not possible to determine for certain because insufficient information was provided.


Pseudoreplication can undermine the conclusions of a statistical analysis, and it would be easier to detect if the sample size, degrees of freedom, the test statistic, and precise p-values are reported. This information should be a requirement for all publications.

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