The Neurocritic

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Deconstructing the most sensationalistic recent findings in Human Brain Imaging, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Psychopharmacology

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  • November 23, 2015
  • 12:58 AM

Happiness Is a Large Precuneus

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

What is happiness, and how do we find it? There are 93,290 books on happiness at Happiness is Life's Most Important Skill, an Advantage and a Project and a Hypothesis that we can Stumble On and Hard-Wire in 21 Days.The Pursuit of Happiness is an Unalienable Right granted to all human beings, but it also generates billions of dollars for the self-help industry.And now the search for happiness is over! Scientists have determined that happiness is located in a small region of your righ........ Read more »

Sato, W., Kochiyama, T., Uono, S., Kubota, Y., Sawada, R., Yoshimura, S., & Toichi, M. (2015) The structural neural substrate of subjective happiness. Scientific Reports, 16891. DOI: 10.1038/srep16891  

  • November 16, 2015
  • 05:50 AM

The Neuroscience of Social Media: An Unofficial History

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

There's a new article in Trends in Cognitive Sciences about how neuroscientists can incorporate social media into their research on the neural correlates of social cognition (Meshi et al., 2015). The authors outlined the sorts of social behaviors that can be studied via participants' use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.: (1) broadcasting information; (2) receiving feedback; (3) observing others' broadcasts; (4) providing feedback; (5) comparing self to others.Meshi, Tamir, and Heekeren / Tr........ Read more »

Meshi D, Tamir TI, Heekeren HR. (2015) The Emerging Neuroscience of Social Media. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. info:/10.1016/j.tics.2015.09.004

  • November 11, 2015
  • 03:29 AM

Obesity Is Not Like Being "Addicted to Food"

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Credit: Image courtesy of Aalto UniversityIs it possible to be “addicted” to food, much like an addiction to substances (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, opiates) or behaviors (gambling, shopping, Facebook)? An extensive and growing literature uses this terminology in the context of the “obesity epidemic”, and looks for the root genetic and neurobiological causes (Carlier et al., 2015; Volkow & Bailer, 2015).Fig. 1 (Meule, 2015). Number of scientific publications on food addiction (1990-2014........ Read more »

  • October 29, 2015
  • 06:54 AM

Ophidianthropy: The Delusion of Being Transformed into a Snake

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Scene from Sssssss (1973).“When Dr. Stoner needs a new research assistant for his herpetological research, he recruits David Blake from the local college.  Oh, and he turns him into a snake for sh*ts and giggles.”Movie Review by Jason Grey Horror movies where people turn into snakes are relatively common (30 by one count), but clinical reports of delusional transmogrification into snakes are quite rare. This is in contrast to clinical lycanthropy, the delusion of turning into a wolf.W........ Read more »

  • October 26, 2015
  • 01:47 AM

On the Long Way Down: The Neurophenomenology of Ketamine

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Is ketamine a destructive club drug that damages the brain and bladder? With psychosis-like effects widely used as a model of schizophrenia? Or is ketamine an exciting new antidepressant, the “most important discovery in half a century”?For years, I've been utterly fascinated by these separate strands of research that rarely (if ever) intersect. Why is that? Because there's no such thing as “one receptor, one behavior.” And because like most scientific endeavors, neuro-pharmacology/psyc........ Read more »

  • September 27, 2015
  • 01:02 AM

Neurohackers Gone Wild!

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Scene from Listening, a new neuro science fiction film by writer-director Khalil Sullins. What are some of the goals of research in human neuroscience?To explain how the mind works.To unravel the mysteries of consciousness and free will.To develop better treatments for mental and neurological illnesses.To allow paralyzed individuals to walk again.Brain decoding experiments that use fMRI or ECoG (direct recordings of the brain in epilepsy patients) to deduce what a person is looking at or sa........ Read more »

  • August 31, 2015
  • 04:31 AM

Cats on Treadmills (and the plasticity of biological motion perception)

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Cats on a treadmill. From Treadmill Kittens.It's been an eventful week. The 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The 10th Anniversary of Optogenetics (with commentary from the neuroscience community and from the inventors). The Reproducibility Project's efforts to replicate 100 studies in cognitive and social psychology (published in Science). And the passing of the great writer and neurologist, Oliver Sacks. Oh, and Wes Craven just died too...I'm not blogging about any of these events. Many ........ Read more »

  • August 10, 2015
  • 07:35 AM

Will machine learning create new diagnostic categories, or just refine the ones we already have?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

How do we classify and diagnose mental disorders?In the coming era of Precision Medicine, we'll all want customized treatments that “take into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles.” To do this, we'll need precise diagnostic tools to identify the specific disease process in each individual. Although focused on cancer in the near-term, the longer-term goal of the White House initiative is to apply Precision Medicine to all areas of health. This ........ Read more »

Insel, T., & Cuthbert, B. (2015) Brain disorders? Precisely. Science, 348(6234), 499-500. DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2358  

  • August 1, 2015
  • 08:42 PM

The Idiosyncratic Side of Diagnosis by Brain Scan and Machine Learning

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

R2D3R2D3 recently had a fantastic Visual Introduction to Machine Learning, using the classification of homes in San Francisco vs. New York as their example. As they explain quite simply: In machine learning, computers apply statistical learning techniques to automatically identify patterns in data. These techniques can be used to make highly accurate predictions. You should really head over there right now to view it, because it's very impressive.Computational neuroscience types are using machin........ Read more »

  • July 15, 2015
  • 04:09 AM

Can Tetris Reduce Intrusive Memories of a Trauma Film?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

For some inexplicable reason, you watched the torture gore horror film Hostel over the weekend. On Monday, you're having trouble concentrating at work. Images of severed limbs and bludgeoned heads keep intruding on your attempts to code or write a paper. So you decide to read about the making of Hostel.You end up seeing pictures of the most horrifying scenes from the movie. It's all way too way much to simply shake off so then you decide to play Tetris. But a funny thing happens. The unwelcome i........ Read more »

  • June 28, 2015
  • 03:05 AM

Who Will Pay for All the New DBS Implants?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Recently, Science and Nature had news features on big BRAIN funding for the development of deep brain stimulation technologies. The ultimate aim of this research is to treat and correct malfunctioning neural circuits in psychiatric and neurological disorders. Both pieces raised ethical issues, focused on device manufacturers and potential military applications, respectively.A different ethical concern, not mentioned in either article, is who will have access to these new devices, and who is goin........ Read more »

  • June 21, 2015
  • 06:28 AM

The Future of Depression Treatment

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

2014Jessica is depressed again. After six straight weeks of overtime, her boss blandly praised her teamwork at the product launch party. And the following week she was passed over for a promotion in favor of Jason, her junior co-worker. "It's always that way, I'll never get ahead..." She arrives at her therapist's office late, looking stressed, disheveled, and dejected. The same old feelings of worthlessness and despair prompted her to resume her medication and CBT routine."You deserve to be rec........ Read more »

Liu, X., Ramirez, S., Redondo, R., & Tonegawa, S. (2014) Identification and Manipulation of Memory Engram Cells. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology, 59-65. DOI: 10.1101/sqb.2014.79.024901  

Ramirez, S., Liu, X., MacDonald, C., Moffa, A., Zhou, J., Redondo, R., & Tonegawa, S. (2015) Activating positive memory engrams suppresses depression-like behaviour. Nature, 522(7556), 335-339. DOI: 10.1038/nature14514  

Timmins, L., & Lombard, M. (2005) When “Real” Seems Mediated: Inverse Presence. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 14(4), 492-500. DOI: 10.1162/105474605774785307  

  • June 7, 2015
  • 01:12 PM

Use of Anti-Inflammatories Associated with Threefold Increase in Homicides

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Scene from Elephant, a fictional film by Gus Van SantRegular use of over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen was associated with three times the risk of committing a homicide in a new Finnish study (Tiihonen et al., 2015). The association between NSAID use and murderous acts was far greater than the risk posed by antidepressants.Clearly, drug companies are pushing dangerous, toxic chemicals and we should ban the substances that are causing school massa........ Read more »

Tiihonen, J., Lehti, M., Aaltonen, M., Kivivuori, J., Kautiainen, H., J. Virta, L., Hoti, F., Tanskanen, A., & Korhonen, P. (2015) Psychotropic drugs and homicide: A prospective cohort study from Finland. World Psychiatry, 14(2), 245-247. DOI: 10.1002/wps.20220  

  • May 31, 2015
  • 09:33 PM

Capgras for Cats and Canaries

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Capgras syndrome is the delusion that a familiar person has been replaced by a nearly identical duplicate. The imposter is usually a loved one or a person otherwise close to the patient.Originally thought to be a manifestation of schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses, the syndrome is most often seen in individuals with dementia (Josephs, 2007). It can also result from acquired damage to a secondary (dorsal) face recognition system important for connecting the received images with an affe........ Read more »

Ellis, H., & Young, A. (1990) Accounting for delusional misidentifications. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 157(2), 239-248. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.157.2.239  

Rösler, A., Holder, G., & Seifritz, E. (2001) Canary Capgras. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 13(3), 429-429. DOI: 10.1176/jnp.13.3.429  

  • May 16, 2015
  • 02:00 PM

Shooting the Phantom Head (perceptual delusional bicephaly)

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

I have two headsWhere's the man, he's late--Throwing Muses, Devil's Roof Medical journals are enlivened by case reports of bizarre and unusual syndromes. Although somatic delusions are relatively common in schizophrenia, reports of hallucinations and delusions of bicephaly are rare. For a patient to attempt to remove a perceived second head by shooting and to survive the experience for more than two years may well be unique, and merits presentation. --David Ames, British Journal of Psychiatry (1........ Read more »

Ames, D. (1984) Self shooting of a phantom head. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 145(2), 193-194. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.145.2.193  

  • May 5, 2015
  • 06:14 AM

Tylenol Doesn't Really Blunt Your Emotions

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

A new study has found that the pain reliever TYLENOL® (acetaminophen) not only dampens negative emotions, it blunts positive emotions too. Or does it?Durso and colleagues (2015) reckoned that if acetaminophen can lessen the sting of psychological pain (Dewall et al., 2010; Randles et al., 2013) – which is doubtful in my view – then it might also lessen reactivity to positive stimuli. Evidence in favor of their hypothesis would support differential susceptibility, the notion that the same ........ Read more »

  • April 26, 2015
  • 11:53 PM

FDA says no to marketing FDDNP for CTE

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently admonished TauMark™, a brain diagnostics company, for advertising brain scans that can diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Alzheimer's disease, and other types of dementia. The Los Angeles Times reported that the FDA ordered UCLA researcher Dr. Gary Small and his colleague/business partner Dr. Jorge Barrio to remove misleading information from their company website (example shown below).CTE has been in the news because the neurodegene........ Read more »

Barrio, J., Small, G., Wong, K., Huang, S., Liu, J., Merrill, D., Giza, C., Fitzsimmons, R., Omalu, B., Bailes, J.... (2015) In vivo characterization of chronic traumatic encephalopathy using [F-18]FDDNP PET brain imaging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201409952. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1409952112  

Zimmer, E., Leuzy, A., Gauthier, S., & Rosa-Neto, P. (2014) Developments in Tau PET Imaging. The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 41(05), 547-553. DOI: 10.1017/cjn.2014.15  

  • April 16, 2015
  • 10:42 AM

Here Comes Optomom!

by neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Optogenetic manipulation in a naïve female mouse induces maternal behavior in response to pup distress calls (Marlin et al. 2015). Video 6: Pup retrieval by Oxt-IRES-Cre virgin female after optical stimulation of left primary auditory cortex (Marlin et al. 2015). One of the really amazing things is that neural activity in response to the distress cries […]... Read more »

  • March 16, 2015
  • 05:47 AM

Update on the BROADEN Trial of DBS for Treatment-Resistant Depression

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Website for the BROADEN™ study, which was terminatedIn these days of irrational exuberance about neural circuit models, it's wise to remember the limitations of current deep brain stimulation (DBS) methods to treat psychiatric disorders. If you recall (from late 2013), Neurotech Business Report revealed that "St. Jude Medical failed a futility analysis of its BROADEN trial of DBS for treatment of depression..."A recent comment on my old post about the BROADEN Trial1 had an even more pessimist........ Read more »

  • March 10, 2015
  • 12:26 AM

Daylight Savings Time and "The Dress"

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

もう何番煎じかも分からないけど例のドレス問題をまとめてみました。青黒/白金に見える人の色覚やモニタを疑ってる人はぜひご覧ください。— ぶどう茶 (@budoucha) February 27, 2015Could one's chronotype (degree of "morningness" vs. "eveningness") be related to your membership on Team white/gold vs. Team blue/black?Dreaded by night owls everywhere, Daylight Savings Time forces us to get up an hour earlier. Yes, ........ Read more »

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