One of the most exciting recent developments in human neuroscience is what is called 'non invasive neuromodulation.' It consists of a number of techniques using either magnetic fields or low currents to stimulate the human brain painlessly and with no or negligible side effects. One of these techniques has been already approved by FDA to treat depression. Other potential uses include reducing seizures in epileptic patients, improving recovery of function after brain damage, and in principle even improving cognitive capacities in healthy subjects.
In my lab, we are doing a number of experiments using neuromodulation, including two studies in which we stimulate two specific brain sites of the frontal lobe to improve empathy and reduce social prejudice. Every experiment has a rationale that is obviously based on previous studies and theories inspired by those studies. Our experiment on empathy is based mostly on our previous work on mirror neurons and empathy. Having done a number of studies ourselves, we are pretty confident about the background on which we base the rationale for our experiment. The experiment on social prejudice, however, is inspired by a clever paper recently published by another group using also neuromodulation of the frontal lobe. The cognitive task used in that study shares similarities with the cognitive mechanisms of social prejudice. However, here is the catch: We know about that published paper (because it was published!) but we have no idea whether a number of groups attempted to do something similar and failed to get any effect, simply because a negative finding does not get published. We also can't possibly know how replicable is the study that inspires our experiment, because replication studies don't get easily published. In other words, we have way more unknowns that we would like to have.