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  • January 12, 2013
  • 04:26 AM

Smart People Say They're Less Depressed

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

The questionable validity of self-report measures in psychiatry has been the topic of a few recent  posts here at Neuroskeptic.Now an interesting new study looks at the question in issue from a new angle, asking: what kind of people report feeling more or less depressed? Korean researchers Kim and colleagues found that intelligence and personality variables were both linked to the tendency to self-rate depression more severely.The study involved 100 patients who'd previously suffered from a........ Read more »

  • January 6, 2013
  • 05:37 AM

Artwork During Recovery From Encephalitis

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

I recently wrote about anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a neurological disorder that often manifests with psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and hallucinations.The latest American Journal of Psychiatry features a strange series of four drawings made by a 15 year old girl during an episode of the disease, which presented as psychotic symptoms but later progressed to severe insomnia and epilepsy before it was diagnosed and treated."As she gradually recovered we asked her to draw something. S........ Read more »

Esseveld MM, van de Riet EH, Cuypers L, & Schieveld JN. (2013) Drawings During Neuropsychiatric Recovery From Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis. The American journal of psychiatry, 170(1), 21-2. PMID: 23288386  

  • January 3, 2013
  • 02:41 PM

Flawed Statistics Make Almost Everyone's Brain "Abnormal"

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A popular method for detecting abnormalities in the shape and size of individual brains is seriously flawed, and is almost guaranteed to find 'differences' even in normal people.So say Italian neuroscientists Scarpazza and colleagues in an important new report: Very high false positive rates in single case Voxel Based Morphometry.Voxel Based Morphometry (VBM) is a way of analyzing brain scans to detect structural differences. It's most commonly used to compare groups of brains to find average di........ Read more »

  • December 30, 2012
  • 07:56 AM

Finally, Hard Evidence Against The "Autism Epidemic"?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

The idea of an 'autism epidemic' has a lot of people very worried.No-one disputes that diagnosed rates of autism have increased enormously over the past 15 years or so, around the world. However, other people write it off as essentially a cultural phenomenon: we're getting better at detecting the disorder and more willing to label kids as having it.I subscribe to the latter view, but there's very little hard evidence for it. To prove that diagnostic changes have occurred, rather than a true incr........ Read more »

  • December 29, 2012
  • 05:32 AM

Mental Illness and Crime, Yet Again

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

As if on cue, a major study about the relationship (if any) between mental disorder and crime has appeared just when everyone's talking about that.Although having said that, people seem to be interested in that issue most of the time nowadays, in the UK at any rate, with schizophrenia topping the list of supposedly scary syndromes.So - should we be worried?The new research, from Australian team Morgan et al, surveyed everyone born in the state of Western Australia between 1955 and 1969. About 1......... Read more »

  • December 26, 2012
  • 08:37 AM

Religion Rises After Disaster Strikes

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

People turn to religion after natural disasters - but it doesn't actually provide much solace.So say researchers Sibley and Bulbulia, who examined the population of Christchurch, New Zealand, before and after the 2011 earthquake. 185 died and many city landmarks were damaged in the disaster.The paper, Faith after an Earthquake, opens with a Biblical quote.Sibley and Bulbulia took advantage of the fact that a longitudinal study of the 'health and values' of the New Zealanders was already underway........ Read more »

  • December 24, 2012
  • 07:28 AM

How Intelligent is IQ?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

"If your IQ is somewhere around 60 then you are probably a carrot'', according to a British spokesman for high-IQ club Mensa. IQ's in the news at the moment thanks to a paper called Fractionating Human Intelligence from Canadian psychologists Adam Hampshire and colleagues. Some say it 'debunks the IQ myth' - but does it?The study started out with a huge online IQ test...Behavioral data were collected via the Internet between September and December 2010. The experiment URL was originally advertis........ Read more »

Hampshire, A., Highfield, R., Parkin, B., & Owen, A. (2012) Fractionating Human Intelligence. Neuron, 76(6), 1225-1237. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.06.022  

  • December 22, 2012
  • 06:08 AM

When "Mental" Illness Isn't

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

 There's a theory that 'psychiatric diseases' like depression and schizophrenia aren't diseases because they're not diagnosed on the basis of any kind of biological abnormality, but purely on symptoms - unlike 'real' diseases like cancer and AIDS.Now, in my view there's quite a bit of truth in that - but there's also a serious flaw in the argument. Sometimes, disorders diagnosed on the basis of psychiatric symptoms do turn out to have had a clear biological cause. So the original diagnosis ........ Read more »

  • December 18, 2012
  • 06:54 AM

Ketamine: Magic Antidepressant Or Illusion? Revisited

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's a lot of interest in the idea that ketamine provides unparalleled rapid, powerful antidepressant effects, even in people who haven't responded to conventional antidepressants.Earlier this year, I asked:Ketamine - Magic Antidepressant, or Expensive Illusion?There have now been several studies finding dramatic antidepressant effects of ketamine, the "club drug" aka "horse-tranquilizer". Great news? If you believe it. But hold your, er, horses... there's a problem.My concern was that althou........ Read more »

Zarate CA Jr, Mathews D, Ibrahim L, Chaves JF, Marquardt C, Ukoh I, Jolkovsky L, Brutsche NE, Smith MA, & Luckenbaugh DA. (2012) A Randomized Trial of a Low-Trapping Nonselective N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Channel Blocker in Major Depression. Biological psychiatry. PMID: 23206319  

  • December 15, 2012
  • 12:29 PM

Search Trends Reveal The Most Suicidal States

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

US states with more Google searches for suicide-related things actually have a higher suicide rate, according to a study just out.Researchers Gunn and Lester write that, across the 50 US states,The association between suicide rates and the search volume for ‘‘commit suicide’’ was significant and positive[r=0.31, p=0.01]... ‘‘how to suicide’’ was marginally significant and positive [r=0.21, p=0.07]... Finally, ‘‘suicide prevention’’ was significant and positive [r=0.61, p=........ Read more »

  • December 15, 2012
  • 12:26 PM

Neither Drugs Nor Therapy Prevent Psychosis

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Neither medication nor psychotherapy is effective in improving the prognosis for youngsters considered to be at high risk of developing psychosis, according to a major study just published.The idea of identifying and treating young people at risk of becoming psychotic - because of a family history of schizophrenia, or because they're showing some mild symptoms - has become very fashionable lately. But can we really do anything to pre-empt the disorder?In this trial, 115 "ultra-high risk" Austral........ Read more »

McGorry, P., Nelson, B., Phillips, L., Yuen, H., Francey, S., Thampi, A., Berger, G., Amminger, G., Simmons, M., Kelly, D.... (2012) Randomized Controlled Trial of Interventions for Young People at Ultra-High Risk of Psychosis. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. DOI: 10.4088/JCP.12m07785  

  • December 8, 2012
  • 11:17 AM

The Case Of The Missing Parasites

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Collembola or "Springtails" are a common group of bugs - they're technically not insects although much like them - found all over the world.There's no evidence that these critters are parasites for humans - except for one strange scientific report claiming to have found Collembola body parts in skin scrapings from people diagnosed with delusional parasitosis - a psychiatric disorder characterised by the belief that one is infested with parasites.According to said 2004 paper by Altschuler et al, ........ Read more »

  • November 30, 2012
  • 02:54 PM

Did Boys Use To Wear Pink?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's a belief that the colours we associate with the genders - pink for girls and blue for boys - used to be the other way around.About 100 years ago, we're told, boys wore pink clothes, but then during the early 20th century, it flipped over. This is often used as an example of how arbitrary gender stereotypes are.However according to psychologist Marco Del Giudice, the whole "pink-blue reversal" is an 'urban legend'. He argues that there's really only anecdotal evidence for the existence of........ Read more »

  • November 29, 2012
  • 01:31 PM

Ritalin, The Ultimate Crimefighter?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's been lots of interest in the idea that ADHD meds reduce crime rates.No doubt that, even as we speak, worried pundits are writing of how this is a worrying Orwellian scenario and yadda yadda. But what's really going on?The research is from Sweden and published in the New England Journal of Medicine: Medication for Attention Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder and Criminality. The first thing to note is that the study is not about giving medication in order to prevent crime; it was purely loo........ Read more »

Lichtenstein P, Halldner L, Zetterqvist J, Sjölander A, Serlachius E, Fazel S, Långström N, & Larsson H. (2012) Medication for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and criminality. The New England journal of medicine, 367(21), 2006-14. PMID: 23171097  

  • November 27, 2012
  • 01:57 PM

Best. Experiment. Ever.

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Studies have shown that men's testosterone levels increase after sexual stimulation. However, other research shows that merely briefly chatting to a woman also causes testosterone release, making it unclear whether sex, per se, is associated with testosterone changes.So an intrepid band of researchers decided to find out using a unique methodology. Their paper's called Salivary Testosterone Levels in Men at a U.S. Sex Club and it's about... that.They first set the scene: Subjects were recruited ........ Read more »

Escasa, M., Casey, J., & Gray, P. (2010) Salivary Testosterone Levels in Men at a U.S. Sex Club. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(5), 921-926. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-010-9711-3  

  • November 23, 2012
  • 03:53 PM

Are Porn Stars Happier?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Women who appear in porn are happier than other women, enjoy sex more - and have lots more of it. So says a new paper with the pulls-no-punches title of Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods HypothesisResearchers James Griffith and colleagues sampled 177 American adult actresses, and an equal number of other women of the same age, gender and relationship status. The results were pretty clear: the actresses said they started having sex earlier; had far more partners with an av........ Read more »

Griffith JD, Mitchell S, Hart CL, Adams LT, & Gu LL. (2012) Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis. Journal of sex research. PMID: 23167939  

  • November 22, 2012
  • 03:09 PM

The Perils of Sharing Brain Scans

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A fascinating paper by neuroscientists Van Horn and Gazzaniga chronicles their pioneering, but not entirely successful, attempt to get researchers sharing their brain scans: Why share data? Lessons learned from the fMRIDC.It all started in 1999 when, along with some colleagues, they decided that the time was right for data sharing in neuroimaging. They got some public funding, and tried to get various major neuroscience journals to require that anyone publishing an fMRI study should make their d........ Read more »

  • November 19, 2012
  • 04:25 PM

Should You Judge A Book (Woman) By The Cover?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

"Do physically attractive women possess particularly attractive inner attributes?"So ask the authors of a study just out in Psychological Science: Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover, Revisited. Their answer? People do tend to judge (female) books by their covers, but we shouldn't.Psychologists Segal-Caspi and colleagues took 118 female Israeli students and videotaped them walking into a room and reading a weather forecast. Then other students - male and female - judged the 'targets' on attractivene........ Read more »

  • November 16, 2012
  • 04:23 PM

We're Probably Not Getting Dumber

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's been loads of interest over the past few days in the idea that humans have been getting stupider for the past few millennia. That's according to Stanford's Gerald R. Crabtree - I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would gue........ Read more »

  • November 14, 2012
  • 11:20 AM

The New "Mood Disorder" That Isn't One

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

The storied history of "Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)", a controversial new child psychiatric disorder proposed for inclusion in the new DSM-5 manual, continues.If DSM-5 is officially published (it's due in 2013), kids will be deemed DMDD if they showsevere recurrent temper outbursts that are grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation.At least three times a week. Would giving that label be helpful?Pittsburg psychiatrists David Axelson and colleagues have ........ Read more »

Axelson D, Findling RL, Fristad MA, Kowatch RA, Youngstrom EA, McCue Horwitz S, Arnold LE, Frazier TW, Ryan N, Demeter C.... (2012) Examining the proposed disruptive mood dysregulation disorder diagnosis in children in the Longitudinal Assessment of Manic Symptoms study. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 73(10), 1342-50. PMID: 23140653  

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