The Neurocritic

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

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  • January 22, 2016
  • 08:30 AM
  • 140 views

This Neuroimaging Method Has 100% Diagnostic Accuracy (or your money back)

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129659.g003Did you know that SPECT imaging can diagnose PTSD with 100% accuracy (Amen et al., 2015)? Not only that, out of a sample of 397 patients from the Amen Clinic in Newport Beach, SPECT was able to distinguish between four different groups with 100% accuracy! That's right, the scans of (1) healthy participants, and patients with (2) classic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), (3) classic traumatic brain injury (TBI), and (4) both disorders..... were all classi........ Read more »

  • January 8, 2016
  • 07:47 AM
  • 209 views

Opioid Drugs for Mental Anguish: Basic Research and Clinical Trials

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The prescription opioid crisis of overdosing and overprescribing has reached epic proportions, according to the North American media. Just last week, we learned that 91% of patients who survive opioid overdose are prescribed more opioids! The CDC calls it an epidemic, and notes there's been “a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers and heroin.” A recent paper in the Annual Review of Public Health labels it a “public health crisis” and proposes “int........ Read more »

  • December 29, 2015
  • 07:04 AM
  • 321 views

Social Pain Revisited: Opioids for Severe Suicidal Ideation

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Does the pain of mental anguish rely on the same neural machinery as physical pain? Can we treat these dreaded ailments with the same medications? These issues have come to the fore in the field of social/cognitive/affective neuroscience.As many readers know, Lieberman and Eisenberger (2015) recently published a controversial paper claiming that a brain region called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC, shown above) is “selective” for pain.1 This finding fits with their long-time narr........ Read more »

  • December 12, 2015
  • 05:47 PM
  • 266 views

This Week in Neuroblunders: Optogenetics Edition

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Recent technological developments in neuroscience have enabled rapid advances in our knowledge of how neural circuits function in awake behaving animals. Highly targeted and reversible manipulations using light (optogenetics) or drugs have allowed scientists to demonstrate that activating a tiny population of neurons can evoke specific memories or induce insatiable feeding.But this week we learned these popular and precise brain stimulation and inactivation methods may produce spurious links to ........ Read more »

  • November 30, 2015
  • 01:34 AM
  • 285 views

Carving Up Brain Disorders

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Neurology and Psychiatry are two distinct specialties within medicine, both of which treat disorders of the brain. It's completely uncontroversial to say that neurologists treat patients with brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. These two diseases produce distinct patterns of neurodegeneration that are visible on brain scans. For example, Parkinson's disease (PD) is a movement disorder caused by the loss of dopamine neurons in the midbrain.Fig. 3 (modified from Golds........ Read more »

Crossley, N., Scott, J., Ellison-Wright, I., & Mechelli, A. (2015) Neuroimaging distinction between neurological and psychiatric disorders. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 207(5), 429-434. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.114.154393  

David, A., & Nicholson, T. (2015) Are neurological and psychiatric disorders different?. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 207(5), 373-374. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.114.158550  

  • November 23, 2015
  • 12:58 AM
  • 354 views

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 Amazon.com. 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
  • 339 views

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
  • 395 views

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
  • 365 views

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
  • 311 views

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
  • 358 views

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
  • 418 views

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
  • 480 views

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
  • 455 views

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
  • 472 views

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
  • 461 views

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
  • 508 views

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
  • 475 views

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
  • 494 views

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
  • 466 views

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  

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