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Comments on neurobiology, neuroimaging, and psychiatry from a skeptical neuroscientist.

Neuroskeptic
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  • January 16, 2017
  • 04:29 PM
  • 106 views

Op, Op, Op. The Neuroscience of Gangnam Style?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

"Our results revealed characteristic patterns of brain activity associated with Gangnam Style". So say the authors of a new paper called Neural correlates of the popular music phenomenon.



The authors, Qiaozhen Chen et al. from Zhejiang in China, used fMRI to record brain activity while 15 volunteers listened to two musical pieces: Psy's 'Gangnam Style' and a "light music" control, Richard Clayderman's piano piece 'A Comme Amour'.

Chen et al. say that Gangnam Style was associated with "... Read more »

Chen Q, Zhang Y, Hou H, Du F, Wu S, Chen L, Shen Y, Chao F, Chung JK, Zhang H.... (2017) Neural correlates of the popular music phenomenon: evidence from functional MRI and PET imaging. European journal of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. PMID: 28083689  

  • January 14, 2017
  • 11:53 AM
  • 152 views

What Can fMRI Tell Us About Mental Illness?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A remarkable and troubling new paper: Addressing reverse inference in psychiatric neuroimaging: Meta-analyses of task-related brain activation in common mental disorders



Icahn School of Medicine researchers Emma Sprooten and colleagues carried out an ambitious task: to pull together the results of every fMRI study which has compared task-related brain activation in people with a mental illness and healthy controls.

Sprooten et al.'s analysis included 537 studies with a total of 21,427 ... Read more »

  • January 11, 2017
  • 05:46 AM
  • 172 views

Two Manifestos for Better Science

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover



Two new papers outline urge scientists to make research more reproducible.



First off, Russ Poldrack and colleagues writing in Nature Reviews Neuroscience discuss how to achieve transparent and reproducible neuroimaging research. Neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI, are enormously powerful tools for neuroscientists but, Poldrack et al. say, they are at risk of "a ‘perfect storm’ of irreproducible results". because the "high dimensionality of fMRI data, the relatively low power of mos... Read more »

Poldrack RA, Baker CI, Durnez J, Gorgolewski KJ, Matthews PM, Munafò MR, Nichols TE, Poline JB, Vul E, & Yarkoni T. (2017) Scanning the horizon: towards transparent and reproducible neuroimaging research. Nature reviews. Neuroscience. PMID: 28053326  

Marcus R. Munafò, Brian A. Nosek, Dorothy V. M. Bishop, Katherine S. Button,, Christopher D. Chambers, Nathalie Percie du Sert, Uri Simonsohn, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers,, & Jennifer J. Ware and John P. A. Ioannidis. (2017) A manifesto for reproducible science. Nat Hum Behav. info:/

  • January 3, 2017
  • 03:43 PM
  • 182 views

What Happens to Rejected Papers?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

The pain of rejection is one that every scientist has felt: but what happens to papers after they're declined by a journal?

In a new study, researchers Earnshaw et al. traced the fate of almost 1,000 manuscripts which had been submitted to and rejected by ear, nose and throat journal Clinical Otolaryngology between 2011 to 2013.





To find out if the rejected papers had eventually appeared elsewhere, Earnshaw et al. searched PubMed and Google Scholar for published papers with titles a... Read more »

Earnshaw CH, Edwin C, Bhat J, Krishnan M, Mamais C, Somashekar S, Sunil A, Williams SP, & Leong SC. (2016) An Analysis of the Fate of 917 Manuscripts Rejected from Clinical Otolaryngology. Clinical Otolaryngology. PMID: 28032954  

  • December 31, 2016
  • 10:52 AM
  • 262 views

No Need To Worry About False Positives in fMRI?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Earlier this year, neuroscience was shaken by the publication in PNAS of Cluster failure: Why fMRI inferences for spatial extent have inflated false-positive rates. In this paper, Anders Eklund, Thomas E. Nichols and Hans Knutsson reported that commonly used software for analysing fMRI data produces many false-positives.



But now, Boston College neuroscientist Scott D. Slotnick has criticized Eklund et al.'s alarming conclusions in a new piece in Cognitive Neuroscience.



In my view, ... Read more »

  • December 29, 2016
  • 05:57 AM
  • 185 views

The Myth of "Darwin's Body-Snatchers"

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Did Charles Darwin's thirst for skulls contribute to the near-extinction of the Aboriginal Tasmanian people?





If you believe certain creationists, Darwin sought examples of Tasmanian skulls in order to prove that this unfortunate race was a 'missing link' between humans and apes. However, according to John van Wyhe in a new paper called Darwin's body-snatchers?, this story has zero basis in fact.
As a Darwin scholar, I thought I had heard all the myths concerning Charles Darwin but on... Read more »

van Wyhe J. (2016) Darwin's body-snatchers?. Endeavour. PMID: 28012688  

  • December 23, 2016
  • 01:47 PM
  • 180 views

What Scientists Think About Scientists

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Most people believe that scientists have high levels of objectivity and integrity - and scientists themselves share these positive views of their own profession. But according to scientists, not all researchers are equally upstanding, with male and early-career scientists being seen as somewhat less trustworthy than others.



That's according to a new paper from Dutch researchers Coosje Veldkamp et al.: Who Believes in the Storybook Image of the Scientist?

Based on a series of studies in... Read more »

Veldkamp CL, Hartgerink CH, van Assen MA, & Wicherts JM. (2016) Who Believes in the Storybook Image of the Scientist?. Accountability in research. PMID: 28001440  

  • December 19, 2016
  • 04:52 AM
  • 248 views

Neuroscience Spots Potential Criminals In Pre-School?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new post at Quartz discusses
The disturbingly accurate brain science that identifies potential criminals while they’re still toddlers... scientists are able to use brain tests on three-year-olds to determine which children are more likely to grow up to become criminals.


Hmmm. Not really.

The research in question is from from North Carolina researchers Avshalom Caspi et al.: Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden. It's based on a long-term... Read more »

Caspi, A., Houts, R., Belsky, D., Harrington, H., Hogan, S., Ramrakha, S., Poulton, R., & Moffitt, T. (2016) Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden. Nature Human Behaviour, 5. DOI: 10.1038/s41562-016-0005  

  • December 8, 2016
  • 05:12 PM
  • 303 views

Do We All Have Split Brains?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

When you're doing two things at once - like listening to the radio while driving - your brain organizes itself into two, functionally independent networks, almost as if you temporarily have two brains. That's according to a fascinating new study from University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientists Shuntaro Sasai and colleagues. It's called Functional split brain in a driving/listening paradigm



In referring to 'split brains' in their title, Sasai et al. are linking their work to the litera... Read more »

Sasai, S., Boly, M., Mensen, A., & Tononi, G. (2016) Functional split brain in a driving/listening paradigm. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201613200. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1613200113  

  • December 6, 2016
  • 02:29 PM
  • 249 views

Fun With Non-Ionizing Radiation

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Does non-ionizing radiation pose a health risk? Everyone knows that ionizing radiation, like gamma rays, can cause cancer by damaging DNA. But the scientific consensus is that there is no such risk from non-ionizing radiation such as radiowaves or Wi-Fi.

Yet according to a remarkable new paper from Magda Havas, the risk is real: it's called When theory and observation collide: Can non-ionizing radiation cause cancer?



There are a few remarkable things about this paper but chief among th... Read more »

  • December 4, 2016
  • 03:34 PM
  • 276 views

Do Synapses Really Store Memories?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Most neuroscientists will tell you that long-term memories are stored in the brain in the form of synapses, the connections between neurons. On this view, memory formation occurs when synaptic connections are strengthened, or entirely new synapses are formed.



However, in a new piece in Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, Austrian researcher Patrick C. Trettenbrein critiques the synapse-memory theory: The Demise of the Synapse As the Locus of Memory.



Trettenbrein acknowledges that "t... Read more »

  • November 20, 2016
  • 01:54 PM
  • 152 views

Pupil Size and Intelligence

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Are the eyes the windows to intelligence? In an interesting paper, Georgia psychologists Jason S. Tsukahara and colleagues report that there's a positive correlation between pupil size and cognitive ability.



It's well known that our pupil size varies over time due to changes in both emotional state and cognitive 'effort'. As Tsukahara et al. put it
Starting in the 1960s it became apparent to psychologists that the size of the pupil is related to more than just the amount of light enterin... Read more »

Tsukahara JS, Harrison TL, & Engle RW. (2016) The relationship between baseline pupil size and intelligence. Cognitive psychology, 109-123. PMID: 27821254  

  • November 16, 2016
  • 01:30 PM
  • 370 views

If You Want to Be Happy, Quit Facebook?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A remarkable paper claims that staying off Facebook for a week could make you happier: The Facebook Experiment, by Morten Tromholt of Denmark.





What makes this study so interesting is that it was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and so was able, at least in theory, to determine whether quitting Facebook actually causes changes in well-being. Previously, there has been lots of research reporting correlations between social network use and happiness, but correlation isn't causation.
... Read more »

  • November 10, 2016
  • 04:09 PM
  • 304 views

Am I An Unethical Pseudonym?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

I've blogged about my fair share of scientific papers over the years, but this is a new one: a paper about me.



Writing in Science and Engineering Ethics, author Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva discusses the question of Are Pseudonyms Ethical in (Science) Publishing? Neuroskeptic as a Case Study



Teixeira da Silva, a plant scientist and frequent poster on PubPeer amongst other forums, opens with the following:
There is a prominent blogger called Neuroskeptic who has a web-site and even a... Read more »

  • November 8, 2016
  • 06:41 AM
  • 380 views

The Brain Basis of Hating Cheese?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Do you find gruyère gross? Are you repelled by roquefort?



Neuroscientists are now investigating why this might be. A new paper claims to reveal The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese.

French (heh) researchers Jean-Pierre Royet and colleagues used fMRI to scan 15 people who liked cheese and 15 who "hated" it. During the scan, the participants were shown images of cheese and were exposed to cheese odors.

The six neuro-cheeses were blue cheese, cheddar, goat cheese, gruyère, parmesan, ... Read more »

Royet JP, Meunier D, Torquet N, Mouly AM, & Jiang T. (2016) The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 511. PMID: 27799903  

  • November 3, 2016
  • 01:49 PM
  • 327 views

Does The Motor Cortex Inhibit Movement?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper could prompt a rethink of a basic tenet of neuroscience. It is widely believed that the motor cortex, a region of the cerebral cortex, is responsible for producing movements, by sending instructions to other brain regions and ultimately to the spinal cord. But according to neuroscientists Christian Laut Ebbesen and colleagues, the truth may be the opposite: the motor cortex may equally well suppress movements.



Ebbesen et al. studied the vibrissa motor cortex (VMC) of the rat, ... Read more »

  • October 27, 2016
  • 11:14 AM
  • 196 views

Advances in the Psychology of Passing the Salt

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover



I just came across a remarkable new paper on the science of salt-passing behavior: Expected Results Show that a Longer Nose Means Slower Times for Passing the Salt and Pepper: A Second Report



The article, which I have no doubt is entirely serious in nature, lists as its authors Canadian researchers Minér Patrick, Léon Le Néz and Pat Minér.

Here's how Patrick et al. describe their work:
Eighty female student subjects were tested by being asked to pass salt or pepper by another stud... Read more »

Patrick M, Le Néz L, Minér P. (2016) Expected Results Show that a Longer Nose Means Slower Times for Passing the Salt and Pepper: A Second Report. Dual Diagnosis: Open Access. info:/

  • October 22, 2016
  • 06:00 AM
  • 347 views

Does Effect Size Matter for fMRI?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

fMRI researchers should care about (and report) the size of the effects that they study, according to a new Neuroimage paper from NIMH researchers Gang Chen and colleagues. It's called Is the statistic value all we should care about in neuroimaging?. The authors include Robert W. Cox, creator of the popular fMRI analysis software AFNI.



Chen et al. explain the purpose of their paper:
Here we address an important issue that has been embedded within the neuroimaging community for a long tim... Read more »

  • October 13, 2016
  • 11:37 AM
  • 332 views

Social Priming - Does It Work After All?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

"Social priming" has been the punching-bag of psychology for the past few years.

The term "social priming" refers to the idea that subtle cues can exert large, unconscious influences on human behaviour. The classic example of a social priming effect was the "professor priming" study in which volunteers who completed a task in which they had to describe a typical professor, subsequently performed better on a general knowledge task. In other words, as the authors put it, "priming a stereotype o... Read more »

Payne BK, Brown-Iannuzzi JL, & Loersch C. (2016) Replicable effects of primes on human behavior. Journal of experimental psychology. General, 145(10), 1269-1279. PMID: 27690509  

  • October 10, 2016
  • 11:31 AM
  • 240 views

Are There Too Few Jobs In Neuroscience?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover



Is European neuroscience facing a jobs crisis? Writing in The Lancet Neurology, Mario Bonato and Esperanza Jubera-Garcia sound the alarm:


As young European neuroscientists, we want to bring attention to the dramatic absence of professional long-term opportunities that researchers are facing mostly, although not exclusively, in the south of Europe.

In the past few years, young scientists from several European countries have been forced to move to other countries, or to quit research a... Read more »

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