I just read a concerning paper about an experimental stem cell treatment for children with autism.
The authors are Himanshu Bansal and colleagues of India. The senior author, Prasad S Koka, is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Stem Cells where the paper appeared, which raises questions about whether the manuscript received a thorough peer review. Koka is actually an author on all five of the research papers published in that issue of the journal. But that's a minor issue compared ... Read more »
Bansal H, Verma P, Agrawal A, Leon J, Sundell IB, Koka PS. (2016) A Short Study Report on Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate Cell Therapy in Ten South Asian Indian Patients with Autism. Journal of Stem Cells, 11(1). info:/
How much damage can the brain take and still function normally? In a new paper, A Lesion-Proof Brain?, Argentinian researchers Adolfo M. García et al. describe the striking case of a woman who shows no apparent deficits despite widespread brain damage.
The patient, "CG", is 44 years old and was previously healthy until a series of strokes lesioned large parts of her brain, as shown below.
García et al. say that the damage included "extensive compromise of the right fronto-temporo-parie... Read more »
García, A., Sedeño, L., Herrera Murcia, E., Couto, B., & Ibáñez, A. (2017) A Lesion-Proof Brain? Multidimensional Sensorimotor, Cognitive, and Socio-Affective Preservation Despite Extensive Damage in a Stroke Patient. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00335
In a curious case report, Indian psychiatrists Lekhansh Shukla and colleagues describe a young man who said he regularly got high by being bitten by a snake.
The 21-year old patient sought treatment for his heavy drug abuse, which included heroin and marijuna. He also reported a less conventional habit: he visited a local snake charmer, where he was bitten on the lips by a "cobra" in order to get high:
He reported that his peers and the snake charmer informed him that he would have drows... Read more »
Shukla L, Reddy SS, Kandasamy A, & Benegal V. (2017) What kills everyone, gives a high for some-Recreational Snake Envenomation. Asian journal of psychiatry, 106-108. PMID: 28262128
What happens in the brain when we die?
Canadian researchers Loretta Norton and colleagues of the University of Western Ontario examine this grave question in a new paper: Electroencephalographic Recordings During Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Therapy Until 30 Minutes After Declaration of Death
Norton et al. examined frontal EEG recordings from four critically ill patients at the point where their life support was withdrawn. Here are some details on the four:
Here's the EEG recor... Read more »
Norton L, Gibson RM, Gofton T, Benson C, Dhanani S, Shemie SD, Hornby L, Ward R, & Young GB. (2017) Electroencephalographic Recordings During Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Therapy Until 30 Minutes After Declaration of Death. The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 44(2), 139-145. PMID: 28231862
When the psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach blotted ink onto paper to produce a series of abstract patterns, could he have known that nearly 100 years later, the Rorschach test would be a household name?
Although the use of the Rorschach to diagnose mental illness is mostly a thing of the past, research on the test continues. Last week, two new papers were published on the Rorschach blots, including a fractal analysis of the images themselves and a brain scanning study using fMRI.
The ... Read more »
Taylor RP, Martin TP, Montgomery RD, Smith JH, Micolich AP, Boydston C, Scannell BC, Fairbanks MS, & Spehar B. (2017) Seeing shapes in seemingly random spatial patterns: Fractal analysis of Rorschach inkblots. PloS one, 12(2). PMID: 28196082
Giromini L, Viglione DJ Jr, Zennaro A, & Cauda F. (2017) Neural activity during production of rorschach responses: An fMRI study. Psychiatry research, 25-31. PMID: 28208069
A peculiar new paper proposes the idea of "connecting two spinal cords as a way of sharing information between two brains". The author is Portuguese psychiatrist Amílcar Silva-dos-Santos and the paper appears in Frontiers in Psychology.
Frontiers are a publisher with a troubled history of publishing dubious science. But this paper is unusual, even by Frontiers' standards, because it contains virtually no science at all.
In a nutshell, Silva-Dos-Santos suggests that it would be interest... Read more »
Silva-Dos-Santos A. (2017) The Hypothesis of Connecting Two Spinal Cords as a Way of Sharing Information between Two Brains and Nervous Systems. Frontiers in psychology, 105. PMID: 28197119
A new paper challenges a decades-old theory in neuroscience: Split brain: divided perception but undivided consciousness
According to the famous work of Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga, "split brain" patients seem to experience a split in consciousness: the left and the right side of their brain can independently become aware of, and respond, to stimuli. Split brain patients are those who underwent surgery to sever the corpus callosum, the nerve tract connecting the two hemispheres of ... Read more »
Pinto Y, Neville DA, Otten M, Corballis PM, Lamme VA, de Haan EH, Foschi N, & Fabri M. (2017) Split brain: divided perception but undivided consciousness. Brain : a journal of neurology. PMID: 28122878
When we're feeling very tired, we sometimes remark that we're "half-asleep". But is this more than just a figure of speech? A new paper suggests that parts of our brain may actually 'fall asleep' even while we're still awake.
According to researchers Jeremy D. Slater and colleagues of the University of Texas, "local sleep" occurs throughout the human brain, with each brain region passing into and out of a sleep-like state over time. What's more, local sleep becomes more and more common in... Read more »
Slater JD, Chelaru MI, Hansen BJ, Beaman C, Kalamangalam G, Tandon N, & Dragoi V. (2017) Focal Changes to Human Electrocorticography With Drowsiness: A Novel Measure of Local Sleep. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. PMID: 28121257
"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
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 »
Sprooten E, Rasgon A, Goodman M, Carlin A, Leibu E, Lee WH, & Frangou S. (2017) Addressing reverse inference in psychiatric neuroimaging: Meta-analyses of task-related brain activation in common mental disorders. Human Brain Mapping. PMID: 28067006
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:/
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
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 »
Slotnick SD. (2016) Resting-state fMRI data reflects default network activity rather than null data: A defense of commonly employed methods to correct for multiple comparisons. Cognitive neuroscience. PMID: 28002981
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 »
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
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
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
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 »
Havas, M. (2016) When theory and observation collide: Can non-ionizing radiation cause cancer?. Environmental Pollution. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2016.10.018
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 »
Trettenbrein, P. (2016) The Demise of the Synapse As the Locus of Memory: A Looming Paradigm Shift?. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. DOI: 10.3389/fnsys.2016.00088
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
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