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  • December 7, 2015
  • 06:58 PM
  • 680 views

False Positive fMRI Revisited

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper reports that one of the most popular approaches to analyzing fMRI data is flawed. The article, available as a preprint on arXiv, is from Swedish neuroscientists Anders Eklund et al.





Neuroskeptic readers may recall that I've blogged about Eklund et al.'s work before, first in 2012 and again earlier this year. In the previous two studies, Eklund et al. showed that the standard parametric statistical method for detecting brain activations in fMRI data is prone to false positi... Read more »

Anders Eklund, Thomas Nichols, & Hans Knutsson. (2015) Can parametric statistical methods be trusted for fMRI based group studies?. arXiv. arXiv: 1511.01863v1

  • December 4, 2015
  • 01:54 PM
  • 812 views

Do Bilingual People Have a Cognitive Advantage?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover



For years, psychologists have been debating the "bilingual advantage" - the idea that speaking more than one language fluently brings with it cognitive benefits. Believers and skeptics in the theory have been trading blows for years, but matters recently came to a head in the form of a series of papers in the journal Cortex.



The bilingual advantage hypothesis states that bilinguals excel at 'cognitive control' also known as 'executive function' - meaning that they find it easier to su... Read more »

  • November 20, 2015
  • 03:06 PM
  • 885 views

Multiple Personalities, Blindness and the Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper reports the fascinating and perplexing case of a woman who reported that she was host to multiple personalities - some of whom were completely blind. The paper is called Sight and blindness in the same person: gating in the visual system, authored by German psychologists Hans Strasburger and Bruno Waldvogel.



The patient in this case, "B. T.", aged 33, has a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID), a condition formerly known as multiple personality disorder (MPD). B. ... Read more »

  • November 15, 2015
  • 07:34 AM
  • 746 views

Meta-Neuroscience: Studying the Brains of Neuroscientists

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

How do neuroscientists' brains work?

In a remarkable (and very meta) new paper, German researchers Frieder Michel Paulus et al. scanned some neuroscientists (their own colleagues) using fMRI, to measure the brain response to seeing neuroscience papers. The study is out now in PLoS ONE: Journal Impact Factor Shapes Scientists' Reward Signal in the Prospect of Publication



Paulus et al.'s paper has already got a lot of attention: it's been featured on the famous Improbable Research blog, ... Read more »

  • November 10, 2015
  • 02:36 PM
  • 863 views

Reproducibility Crisis: The Plot Thickens

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper from British psychologists David Shanks and colleagues will add to the growing sense of a "reproducibility crisis" in the field of psychology.

The paper is called Romance, Risk, and Replication and it examines the question of whether subtle reminders of 'mating motives' (i.e. sex) can make people more willing to spend money and take risks. In 'romantic priming' experiments, participants are first 'primed' e.g. by reading a story about meeting an attractive member of the opposite s... Read more »

Shanks DR, Vadillo MA, Riedel B, Clymo A, Govind S, Hickin N, Tamman AJ, & Puhlmann LM. (2015) Romance, Risk, and Replication: Can Consumer Choices and Risk-Taking Be Primed by Mating Motives?. Journal of experimental psychology. General. PMID: 26501730  

  • November 4, 2015
  • 05:41 AM
  • 808 views

A Brain At Rest? Thoughts and Feelings in the "Resting State"

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover



Neuroscientists are increasingly interested in the brain's "resting state" - the neural activity that goes on while people are doing nothing in particular.

But how restful is rest? What do people think about when they're "resting"? Psychologists Russell T. Hurlburt discuss this issue in a new paper called What goes on in the resting-state? A qualitative glimpse into resting-state experience in the scanner



In a study of five volunteers undergoing resting state fMRI scans, the author... Read more »

  • October 27, 2015
  • 06:45 AM
  • 763 views

Medication for Schizophrenia: Less is More?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover



According to the New York Times (NYT) a week ago, a major new study found that lower doses of antipsychotics are better for the treatment of schizophrenia:
The findings, from by far the most rigorous trial to date conducted in the United States, concluded that schizophrenia patients who received smaller doses of antipsychotic medication and a bigger emphasis on one-on-one talk therapy and family support made greater strides in recovery over the first two years of treatment than patients who... Read more »

Kane JM, Robinson DG, Schooler NR, Mueser KT, Penn DL, Rosenheck RA, Addington J, Brunette MF, Correll CU, Estroff SE.... (2015) Comprehensive Versus Usual Community Care for First-Episode Psychosis: 2-Year Outcomes From the NIMH RAISE Early Treatment Program. The American journal of psychiatry. PMID: 26481174  

  • October 21, 2015
  • 05:19 AM
  • 791 views

The Selective Laziness of Reasoning

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

If you could meet yourself, would you always agree with yourself?



You might hope so. But according to a new study, many people will reject their own arguments - if they're tricked into thinking that other people proposed them.



The paper, published in Cognitive Science, is called The Selective Laziness of Reasoning  and it's from cognitive scientists Emmanuel Trouche and colleagues. By "selective laziness", Trouche et al. are referring to our tendency to only bother scrutinizing arg... Read more »

Trouche E, Johansson P, Hall L, & Mercier H. (2015) The Selective Laziness of Reasoning. Cognitive science. PMID: 26452437  

  • October 10, 2015
  • 07:34 AM
  • 723 views

Can Google Books Really Tell Us About Cultural Evolution?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

In 2009, Google made available Google Books (also known as the Ngram corpus), a database that now includes over 8 million books from libraries around the world. The books comprise a collection of words (over 500 billion English words) and phrases and this dataset is freely available for research use. The Books corpus allows researchers to examine changes in the frequency of word use in books over time, dating back to 1800.



This has led a lot of striking findings. So for instance, it has b... Read more »

  • October 9, 2015
  • 05:31 AM
  • 682 views

The Poor, Unhappy, Chain-smoking Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A thought-provoking new paper from Oxford neuroscientists Stephen Smith and colleagues reports a correlation between a certain pattern of brain activity and, well, a great many things.

The researchers took 461 resting state fMRI scans from the open Human Connectome Project (HCP) database. Associated with each scan is a set of 'meta-data' about the volunteer who had the scan. These 158 variables (listed here) cover everything from age and gender, to mental health status, income, and 'times use... Read more »

Smith SM, Nichols TE, Vidaurre D, Winkler AM, Behrens TE, Glasser MF, Ugurbil K, Barch DM, Van Essen DC, & Miller KL. (2015) A positive-negative mode of population covariation links brain connectivity, demographics and behavior. Nature Neuroscience. PMID: 26414616  

  • September 26, 2015
  • 05:14 PM
  • 854 views

A Primetime Psychology Experiment: Does TV Affect Behavior?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A remarkable paper just published in PLoS ONE reports on what is, I think, one of the largest psychological experiments of all time.

Researchers Elizabeth L. Paluck and colleagues partnered with a TV network to insert certain themes (or messages) into popular dramas shown on US TV. They then looked to see whether these themes had an effect on real world behavior, ranging from Google searches to drink-driving arrests.



The study was based on three prime time Spanish-language dramas (tele... Read more »

Paluck EL, Lagunes P, Green DP, Vavreck L, Peer L, & Gomila R. (2015) Does Product Placement Change Television Viewers' Social Behavior?. PloS one, 10(9). PMID: 26398217  

  • September 22, 2015
  • 08:21 AM
  • 1,021 views

Time to Rethink the Reconsolidation Theory of Memory?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

An influential theory about the malleability of memory comes under scrutiny in a new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience.





The 'reconsolidation' hypothesis holds that when a memory is recalled, its molecular trace in the brain becomes plastic. On this view, a reactivated memory has to be 'saved' or consolidated all over again in order for it to be stored.

A drug that blocks memory formation ('amnestic') will, therefore, not just block new memories but will also cause reactivated m... Read more »

  • September 16, 2015
  • 10:20 AM
  • 877 views

More Doubts Over The Oxytocin And Trust Theory

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

The claim that the hormone oxytocin promotes trust in humans has drawn a lot of attention. But today, a group of researchers reported that they've been unable to reproduce their own findings concerning that effect.



The new paper, in PLoS ONE, is by Anthony Lane and colleagues from Louvain in Belgium. The same team have previously published evidence supporting the link between oxytocin and trust.

Back in 2010 they reported that "oxytocin increases trust when confidential information is ... Read more »

Lane A, Mikolajczak M, Treinen E, Samson D, Corneille O, de Timary P, & Luminet O. (2015) Failed Replication of Oxytocin Effects on Trust: The Envelope Task Case. PloS ONE, 10(9). PMID: 26368396  

  • September 13, 2015
  • 11:52 AM
  • 548 views

When Science is a Family Matter

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A paper just published in American Psychologist has the unusual distinction of seemingly being written by four members of the same family.


Opportunistic biases: Their origins, effects, and an integrated solution was authored by Jamie DeCoster, Erin A. Sparks, Jordan C. Sparks, Glenn G. Sparks and Cheri W. Sparks. Four Sparks!



In science it's not unusual to have couples who work together and collaborate in writing papers. Sometimes this is evident from the author list, if they're marr... Read more »

DeCoster J, Sparks EA, Sparks JC, Sparks GG, & Sparks CW. (2015) Opportunistic biases: Their origins, effects, and an integrated solution. The American psychologist, 70(6), 499-514. PMID: 26348333  

  • September 7, 2015
  • 06:58 AM
  • 740 views

Psychology Should Aim For 100% Reproducibility

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Last week, the Open Science Collaboration reported that only 36% of a sample of 100 claims from published psychology studies were succesfully replicated: Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science.

A reproducibility rate of 36% seems bad. But what would be a good value? Is it realistic to expect all studies to replicate? If not, where should we set the bar?

In this post I'll argue that it should be 100%.





First off however, I'll note that no single replication attemp... Read more »

Open Science Collaboration. (2015) Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science (New York, N.Y.), 349(6251). PMID: 26315443  

  • September 1, 2015
  • 05:47 PM
  • 927 views

Does Everyone Dream?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Everyone dreams - even people who believe that they "never dream" and can't remember any of their dreams. That's according to a group of French researchers writing in the Journal of Sleep Research: Evidence that non-dreamers do dream.





In questionnaire surveys, up to 6.5% of people report that they 'never dream'. Although most of these people report having dreamed at some point in the past, roughly 1 in every 250 people say that they can't remember ever dreaming - not even once.

But... Read more »

  • August 27, 2015
  • 11:37 AM
  • 1,007 views

The Man Who Saw His Double In The Mirror

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A creepy case report in the journal Neurocase describes a man who came to believe that his reflection was another person who lived behind the mirror.





The patient, Mr. B., a 78-year-old French man, was admitted to the neurology department in Tours:
During the previous 10 days, Mr. B. reported the presence of a stranger in his home who was located behind the mirror of the bathroom and strikingly shared his physical appearance. The stranger was a double of himself: he was the same size,... Read more »

  • August 26, 2015
  • 05:54 PM
  • 738 views

Non-Visual Processing in the Visual Cortex

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Are there areas of the cerebral cortex purely devoted to vision? Or can the "visual" cortex, under some conditions, respond to sounds? Two papers published recently address this question.



First off, Micah Murray and colleagues of Switzerland discuss The multisensory function of primary visual cortex in humans in a review paper published in Neuropsychologia.

They criticize the conventional view that the primary visual cortex (in the occipital lobe) is little more than a reception point ... Read more »

Bedny M, Richardson H, & Saxe R. (2015) "Visual" Cortex Responds to Spoken Language in Blind Children. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 35(33), 11674-81. PMID: 26290244  

Murray MM, Thelen A, Thut G, Romei V, Martuzzi R, & Matusz PJ. (2015) The multisensory function of primary visual cortex in humans. Neuropsychologia. PMID: 26275965  

  • August 20, 2015
  • 07:32 AM
  • 913 views

The Myth of Beer Goggles?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new study casts doubt on the idea that alcohol causes people to seem more attractive - the famous "beer goggles" effect.



Psychologists Olivia Maynard and colleauges, of Bristol, UK, conducted an unusual "real world" experiment.  Rather than doing their testing in the laboratory, they went into three Bristol pubs in the evening (5-11 pm) and recruited volunteers on the spot. With a total sample size of 311, it was a very large sample.

Each participant was breathalyzed to estimate thei... Read more »

  • August 10, 2015
  • 04:59 PM
  • 982 views

Are There Too Many Meta-Analyses? (Updated)

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Meta-analyses are systematic syntheses of scientific evidence, most commonly randomized controlled clinical trials. A meta-analysis combines the results of multiple studies and can lead to new insights and more reliable results.

However, according to Italian surgeon Giovanni Tebala writing in Medical Hypotheses, meta-analyses are becoming too popular, and are in danger of taking over the medical literature.



Searching the PubMed database, Tebala shows that the yearly rate of publication... Read more »

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