A misleading piece of statistical rhetoric has appeared in a paper about an experimental antidepressant treatment. The study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. JAD is a respectable mid-ranked psychiatry journal - yet on this occasion they seem to have dropped the ball badly.
The study examined whether the drug armodafinil (Nuvigil) improved mood in people with bipolar disorder who were in a depressive episode. In a double-blind trial, 462 patients were randomized to treat... Read more »
Ketter TA, Yang R, & Frye MA. (2015) Adjunctive armodafinil for major depressive episodes associated with bipolar I disorder. Journal of affective disorders, 87-91. PMID: 25933099
25% of papers published in cancer biology journals contain signs of 'data duplication', which can be a sign of scientific errors or even misconduct.
That's according to a remarkable paper just published in Science and Engineering Ethics by a Norwegian cancer researcher, Morten P. Oksvold.
Oksvold writes that he randomly selected 40 recent original data papers from three cancer journals, for a total of 120 articles. The journals were chosen to represent one low, one middle, and high imp... Read more »
Oksvold, M. (2015) Incidence of Data Duplications in a Randomly Selected Pool of Life Science Publications. Science and Engineering Ethics. DOI: 10.1007/s11948-015-9668-7
The brain shrinks over the course of the day, ending up smaller in the evening - before returning to its full size the next morning. That's according to a neat new study based on an analysis of almost 10,000 MRI scans. It's published today in Neuroimage.
Kunio Nakamura and colleagues of the Montreal Neurological Institute examined 3,269 scans from multiple sclerosis trials and 6,114 from the ADNI Alzheimer's disease project. This makes it the biggest neuroscience study I can think of.
... Read more »
Nakamura K, Brown RA, Narayanan S, Collins DL, Arnold DL, & Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. (2015) Diurnal fluctuations in brain volume: Statistical analyses of MRI from large populations. NeuroImage. PMID: 26049148
A new paper in the unconventional journal Medical Hypotheses raises concerns that MRI brain scans could be harmful.
E. Z. Meilikhov of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology proposes that the powerful static magnetic fields inside an MRI scanner could exert force on tiny particles of the iron-containing mineral magnetite within the brain. These nanoparticles, being magnetic, could move and rotate in the MRI's magnetic field and even be forced inside neurons, he says:
20 years ago... Read more »
Meilikhov EZ. (2015) Is magnetic resonance imaging of human brain is harmful?. Medical hypotheses. PMID: 26003831
A new paper examines how the brain keeps track of positive and negative outcomes: No unified reward prediction error in local field potentials from the human nucleus accumbens
The authors, London-based neuroscientists Max-Philipp Stenner and colleagues, recorded electrical local field potentials (LFP) using electrodes implanted into the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) in six patients. The patients all suffered from epilepsy and the electrodes were being implanted to treat the disease. The author... Read more »
Stenner MP, Rutledge RB, Zaehle T, Schmitt FC, Kopitzki K, Kowski AB, Voges J, Heinze HJ, & Dolan RJ. (2015) No unified reward prediction error in local field potentials from the human nucleus accumbens: evidence from epilepsy patients. Journal of neurophysiology. PMID: 26019312
An amusing editorial in the neuroscience journal Cortex discusses the excuses scientists use to explain why they didn't submit their peer reviews on time:
Following our nagging for late reviews, we learned that one reviewer had to take their cat to the vet, another was busy buying Christmas presents, one was planning their holidays, an unfortunate one had their office broken into [...] others agreed to review whereas indeed they really intended to withdraw, or were just too busy to reply.
Th... Read more »
Last year I blogged about the creepy phenomenon of cyranoids. A cyranoid is a person who speaks the words of another person. With the help of a hidden earpiece, a 'source' whispers words into the ear of a 'shadower' , who repeats them. In research published last year, British psychologists Kevin Corti and Alex Gillespie showed that cyranoids are hard to spot: if you were speaking to one, you probably wouldn't know it, even if the source was an adult and the shadower a child, or vice versa.
... Read more »
Corti, K., & Gillespie, A. (2015) A truly human interface: interacting face-to-face with someone whose words are determined by a computer program. Frontiers in Psychology. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00634
Neuroscientists might need to rethink much of what's known about the amygdala, a small brain region that's been the focus of a lot of research. That's according to a new paper just published in Scientific Reports: fMRI measurements of amygdala activation are confounded by stimulus correlated signal fluctuation in nearby veins draining distant brain regions.
The amygdala is believed to be involved in emotion, especially negative emotions such as fear. Much of the evidence for this comes fr... Read more »
Boubela RN, Kalcher K, Huf W, Seidel EM, Derntl B, Pezawas L, Našel C, & Moser E. (2015) fMRI measurements of amygdala activation are confounded by stimulus correlated signal fluctuation in nearby veins draining distant brain regions. Scientific reports, 10499. PMID: 25994551
A provocative paper says that neuroscientists who research mental health problems ought to listen to the views of people who have experienced those conditions.
The piece, from Australian authors Anthony Stratford and colleagues, is published in The Psychiatric Quarterly.
Here are some highlights:
Traditionally, mental health consumer [i.e. patient] involvement in research activities has largely been as "subjects"... the passive recipients of research activity... This approach does lit... Read more »
Stratford A, Brophy L, Castle D, Harvey C, Robertson J, Corlett P, Davidson L, & Everall I. (2015) Embedding a Recovery Orientation into Neuroscience Research: Involving People with a Lived Experience in Research Activity. The Psychiatric Quarterly. PMID: 25969424
A new study claims that Functional Connectivity in MRI Is Driven by Spontaneous BOLD Events
The researchers, Thomas Allan and colleagues from the University of Nottingham (one of the birthplaces of MRI), say that their results challenge the assumption that correlations in neural activity between 'networks' of brain regions reflect slow, steady low frequency oscillations within those networks. Instead, they report that the network connectivity is the result of occasional 'spikes' of coordinate... Read more »
Allan TW, Francis ST, Caballero-Gaudes C, Morris PG, Liddle EB, Liddle PF, Brookes MJ, & Gowland PA. (2015) Functional Connectivity in MRI Is Driven by Spontaneous BOLD Events. PloS one, 10(4). PMID: 25922945
This week has seen a flurry of alarming headlines suggesting that thinking can make brain cancer grow quicker. For example:
HuffPo: Thinking Can Fuel The Growth Of Brain Tumors, Study Finds
Daily Mail: How your THOUGHTS can fuel brain tumours
Nation (Pakistan): Cancer ‘hijacks’ process of thinking
Well, whoever wrote these headlines is safe, then. The research in question in fact wasn't about thinking. It actually showed that the growth of tumours called gliomas could be increased... Read more »
Venkatesh, H., Johung, T., Caretti, V., Noll, A., Tang, Y., Nagaraja, S., Gibson, E., Mount, C., Polepalli, J., Mitra, S.... (2015) Neuronal Activity Promotes Glioma Growth through Neuroligin-3 Secretion. Cell. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.04.012
After the fall of Nazi Germany, the victorious Allies sought to bring the leaders of the Third Reich to justice in the form of the well-known Nuremberg Trials. Less famous are the attempts by psychologists to understand the Nazi mind in the form of psychological evaluations of the Nuremberg defendants.
A new paper by Joel E. Dimsdale of the University of California San Diego looks at one of the stranger episodes in the aftermath of WW2 - the use of the Rorschach "Inkblot" Test on Nazi de... Read more »
Dimsdale, J. (2015) Use of Rorschach tests at the Nuremberg war crimes trial: A forgotten chapter in history of medicine. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.04.001
In a provocative review paper just published, French neuroscientists Jean-Michel Hupé and Michel Dojat question the assumption that synesthesia is a neurological disorder.
In synesthesia, certain sensory stimuli involuntarily trigger other sensations. For example, in one common form of synesthesia, known as 'grapheme-color', certain letters are perceived as allied with, certain colors. In other cases, musical notes are associated with colors, or smells.
The cause of synesthesia is obsc... Read more »
Hupé JM, & Dojat M. (2015) A critical review of the neuroimaging literature on synesthesia. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 103. PMID: 25873873
A new paper in Neuroimage suggests that methods for removing head motion and physiological noise from fMRI data might be inadvertently excluding real signal as well.
The authors, Molly G. Bright and Kevin Murphy of Cardiff, studied the technique called nuisance regression. It's a popular approach for removing fMRI noise. Noise reduction is important because factors such as head movement, the heart beat, and breathing, can contaminate the fMRI signal and lead to biased results. Nuisance regres... Read more »
Bright MG, & Murphy K. (2015) Is fMRI "noise" really noise? Resting state nuisance regressors remove variance with network structure. NeuroImage. PMID: 25862264
According to a large study just published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, there's no correlation between brain anatomy and self-reported autistic traits.
Dutch researchers P. Cedric M. P. Koolschijn and colleagues looked at two samples of young Dutch adults: an 'exploration' sample of 204, and a separate 'validation' group of 304 individuals.
Most of the participants did not have autism. The researchers looked for associations between various aspects of brain ... Read more »
Koolschijn PC, Geurts HM, van der Leij AR, & Scholte HS. (2015) Are Autistic Traits in the General Population Related to Global and Regional Brain Differences?. Journal of autism and developmental disorders. PMID: 25847757
A new study published in the journal Neurocase made headlines this week. Headlines like: "Sarcasm Center Found In Brain's White Matter". The paper reports that damage to a particular white matter pathway in the brain, the right sagittal stratum, is associated with difficulty in perceiving a sarcastic tone of voice.
The authors, studied 24 patients who had suffered white matter damage after a stroke. In some cases, the lesions included the sagittal stratum in the right hemisphere, and... Read more »
Davis CL, Oishi K, Faria AV, Hsu J, Gomez Y, Mori S, & Hillis AE. (2015) White matter tracts critical for recognition of sarcasm. Neurocase, 1-8. PMID: 25805326
A psychiatry journal, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (JNMD), has just published a remarkable attack on another journal, Frontiers in Psychology. Here's the piece: it's by the JNMD's own Statistics Editor. In it, he writes that:
To be perfectly candid, the reader needs to be informed that the journal that published the Lakens (2013) article, Frontiers in Psychology, is one of an increasing number of journals that charge exorbitant publication fees in exchange for free open access to p... Read more »
Cicchetti DV. (2015) Cognitive Behavioral Techniques for Psychosis: A Biostatistician's Perspective. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 203(4), 304-5. PMID: 25816048
Who discovered autism? Traditionally, the priority has been ascribed to two psychiatrists, Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, who both published independent but remarkably similar descriptions of the syndrome in 1943 - 44 (although Asperger had released a preliminary description in 1938.)
But according to a new paper in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, both Kanner and Asperger were scooped by nearly two decades - by a Soviet child psychiatrist, Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva. She described a syn... Read more »
In the Journal of Personality, a new study reports on the uniformity of human experience around the globe: The World at 7: Comparing the Experience of Situations Across 20 Countries
The research was an online survey of a total of 5447 people. Each participant was asked to think about what happened the previous evening at 7 pm. Then they were asked to describe the 7 pm scene by means of 89 statements (descriptors), which included things like: "Rational thinking is called for.", "Situation ra... Read more »
Guillaume E, Baranski E, Todd E, Bastian B, Bronin I, Ivanova C, Cheng JT, de Kock FS, Denissen JJ, Gallardo-Pujol D.... (2015) The World at 7: Comparing the experience of situations across 20 countries. Journal of personality. PMID: 25808415
Modern winemakers may have erred when they switched to producing high alcohol wines. According to a new paper, from Spanish neuroscientists Ram Frost and colleagues, a low alcohol content wine actually produces more brain activity in 'taste processing' areas than more alcoholic varieties do.
But what does the brain really have to say about Beaujolais? Can scanning help us pick a Sauvignon? Will neuroimaging reveal the secret to a good... er... Nero d'Avola?
In their paper, publishe... Read more »
Frost R, Quiñones I, Veldhuizen M, Alava JI, Small D, & Carreiras M. (2015) What Can the Brain Teach Us about Winemaking? An fMRI Study of Alcohol Level Preferences. PloS one, 10(3). PMID: 25785844
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