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  • January 16, 2009
  • 01:30 PM

A Gene for Power-Line Leukemia?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Some people believe that living near high-voltage power lines raises the risk of childhood cancer. Most people are skeptical. A Chinese group have just published a paper in the journal Leukemia and Lymphoma, claiming that a genetic polymorphism in the XRCC1 gene, which has been previously linked to various cancers, raises the risk of electromagnetic field (EMF)-related leukemia. People who believe in EMF-related leukemia are happy. The Daily Mail report on this study quoting no less than three s........ Read more »

  • January 15, 2009
  • 11:29 AM

No ventral prefrontal cortex? No problem!

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Brain damage - it's not much fun when it's your brain, but for science, it's often good news. While neuroimaging can find the neural correlates of mental processes - areas of the brain which become active during the experience of an emotion, say - lesion studies are often necessary to establish the direction of causality. Just because somewhere in the brain is activated during the experience of fear, for example, doesn't mean that this area is responsible for our feelings of fright; it might jus........ Read more »

M. Koenigs, E. D. Huey, M. Calamia, V. Raymont, D. Tranel, & J. Grafman. (2008) Distinct Regions of Prefrontal Cortex Mediate Resistance and Vulnerability to Depression. Journal of Neuroscience, 28(47), 12341-12348. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2324-08.2008  

  • January 13, 2009
  • 05:55 PM

Mice, Math and Drugs: On Science without Understanding

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

The latest issue of Neuropsychopharmacology is chock full of goodies - not only one of the first ever controlled trials of medical marijuana, but also a surprise gem from an American-Israeli collaboration, called A Data Mining Approach to In Vivo Classification of Psychopharmacological Drugs. Yet despite being an excellent paper, it raises some worrying questions about what is and isn't science.In a nutshell, the authors sought to discover a way of efficiently determining what a drug does. There........ Read more »

Apostolos P Georgopoulos, Elissaios Karageorgiou, Arthur C Leuthold, Scott M Lewis, Joshua K Lynch, Aurelio A Alonso, Zaheer Aslam, Adam F Carpenter, Angeliki Georgopoulos, Laura S Hemmy.... (2007) Synchronous neural interactions assessed by magnetoencephalography: a functional biomarker for brain disorders. Journal of Neural Engineering, 4(4), 349-355. DOI: 10.1088/1741-2560/4/4/001  

  • January 12, 2009
  • 06:13 PM

Medical Marijuana Helps HIV Pain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There have long been anecdotal reports that marijuana can have pain-killing (analgesic) effects in types of chronic pain which are otherwise difficult to treat. This has led to great enthusiasm about the prospect of "medical marijuana" - but, attractive as that might sound, there has always been a lack of hard evidence showing that marijuana in fact works. Being highly illegal in the U.S.A (more illegal than cocaine in fact), it's hard to study.A paper out today in Neuropsychopharmacology aimed ........ Read more »

Ronald J Ellis, Will Toperoff, Florin Vaida, Geoffrey van den Brande, James Gonzales, Ben Gouaux, Heather Bentley, & J Hampton Atkinson. (2008) Smoked Medicinal Cannabis for Neuropathic Pain in HIV: A Randomized, Crossover Clinical Trial. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34(3), 672-680. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2008.120  

  • January 6, 2009
  • 05:52 PM

Critiquing a Classic: "The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations"

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

One of the most blogged-about psychology papers of 2008 was Weisberg et. al.'s The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations.As most of you probably already know, Weisberg et. al. set out to test whether adding an impressive-sounding, but completely irrelevant, sentence about neuroscience to explanations for common aspects of human behaviour made people more likely to accept those explanations as good ones. As they noted in their Introduction:Although it is hardly mysterious that members of ........ Read more »

Deena Skolnick Weisberg, Frank C. Keil, Joshua Goodstein, Elizabeth Rawson, & Jeremy R. Gray. (2008) The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(3), 470-477. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20040  

  • January 4, 2009
  • 12:14 PM

Lessons from the Video Game Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

See also Lessons from the Placebo Gene. Also, if you like this kind of thing, see my other fMRI-curmudgeonry(1, 2)The life of a neurocurmudgeon is a hard one, but once in a while, fate smiles upon us. This article in the Daily Telegraph neatly embodies several of the mistakes that people make about the brain, all in one bite-size portion.The article is about a recent fMRI study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. 22 healthy Stanford student volunteers (half of them male) played a "........ Read more »

F HOEFT, C WATSON, S KESLER, K BETTINGER, & A REISS. (2008) Gender differences in the mesocorticolimbic system during computer game-play. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 42(4), 253-258. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2007.11.010  

  • January 1, 2009
  • 08:08 AM

Are Faces Special?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's been a glut of face-based science lately. There was the first American face transplant (the second if you count the ill-fated Travolta/Cage one...) Then an Atlanta group allegedly found that chimpanzees have a part of the brain specialized for recognizing the faces of their fellow chimps.As I'll explain, this would be extremely important if true. This research is just the latest chapter in a long and contentious debate going back many years - a debate which, believe it or not, may hold t........ Read more »

L PARR, E HECHT, S BARKS, T PREUSS, & J VOTAW. (2008) Face Processing in the Chimpanzee Brain. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.11.048  

  • December 16, 2008
  • 08:09 AM

Alas, Poor Noradrenaline

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Previously I posted about the much-maligned serotonin theory of depression and tentatively defended it, while making it clear that "low serotonin" was certainly not the whole story. Critics have noted that the serotonin-is-happiness hypothesis has become folk wisdom, despite being clearly incomplete, and this is generally ascribed to the marketing power of the pharmaceutical industry. What's also interesting is that a predecessor and rival to the serotonin hypothesis, the noradrenaline theory, f........ Read more »

J. J. Schildkraut, & S. S. Kety. (1967) Biogenic Amines and Emotion. Science, 156(3771), 21-30. DOI: 10.1126/science.156.3771.21  

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