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

Stanley E Lazic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: 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. RESULTS: 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. CONCLUSIONS: 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.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBMC Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUK-C1-013-04
Acknowledgements: SEL was supported by a Cancer Research UK bursary, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust (University of Cambridge), and an OCCAM Visiting Studentship (University of Oxford). This publication was based on work supported in part by Award No KUK-C1-013-04, made by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The helpful comments and suggestions from four anonymous reviewers is also gratefully acknowledged.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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