Practical Bayesian Inference in Neuroscience: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Embrace the Distribution

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Coventry, B. S.; Bartlett, E. L.


Typical statistical practices in biological sciences have been increasingly called into question due to difficulties in replication of an increasing number of studies, much of which is confounded by the relative difficulty of null significance hypothesis testing designs and interpretation of p-values. Bayesian inference, representing a fundamentally different approach to hypothesis testing, is receiving renewed interest as a potential alternative or complement to traditional null significance hypothesis testing due to its ease of interpretation and explicit declarations of prior assumptions. Bayesian models are more mathematically complex than equivalent frequentist approaches, which have historically limited applications to simplified analysis cases. However, the advent of probability distribution sampling tools with exponential increases in computational power now allows for quick and robust inference under any distribution of data. Here we present a practical tutorial on the use of Bayesian inference in the context of neuroscientific studies. We first start with an intuitive discussion of Bayes\' rule and inference followed by the formulation of Bayesian-based regression and ANOVA models using data from a variety of neuroscientific studies. We show how Bayesian inference leads to easily interpretable analysis of data while providing an open-source toolbox to facilitate the use of Bayesian tools.

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