Neuroscience is difficult, let’s be honest. And reading research and even press releases on research can be a burden.
Jon Simons made a blogpost that can come in handy for anyone interested in neurology and more specific in reading fMRI-papers. It is not meant to be prescriptive (or indeed exhaustive), but a few ideas of what to look for will hopefully benefit those wanting to report fMRI papers accurately in the media, as well as people who might simply wish to know how much they can reliably interpret from articles they read.
How many subjects are involved? There’s no perfect number, but anything less than 15-20 and you should ask serious questions about reliability of the results for most designs (although some studies in domains like perception that collect lots of data for each subject can use fewer). Were any subjects excluded after the data were collected – if so, why? If there are different conditions in the experiment, was their order counterbalanced to avoid possible order effects (e.g., due to fatigue or practice-related improvements)?