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  • November 8, 2012
  • 12:40 PM

Blogging's First Academic Paper

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

In an historic achievement, I can announce that I have become (to my knowledge) the first blogger ever to publish in a peer-reviewed academic journal under a blogging pseudonym.Skeptic, N. (2012) The Nine Circles of Scientific Hell Perspectives on Psychological Science 7 (6) 643-644 This is based on a post from two years ago (far and away the most popular post I've ever done). Now as historic achievements go, this is fairly niche, but I do think it's important.Most of the problems with the way s........ Read more »

Neuroskeptic. (2012) The Nine Circles of Scientific Hell. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(6), 643-644. DOI: 10.1177/1745691612459519  

  • November 7, 2012
  • 12:14 PM

The Persistence of "Past-Life" Memories

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Many children spontaneously report memories of 'past lives'. For believers, this is evidence for reincarnation; for others, it's a psychological oddity.But what happens when they grow up?Icelandic psychologists Haraldsson and Abu-Izzedin looked into it. They took 28 adults, members of the Druze community of Lebanon. They'd all been interviewed about past life memories by the famous reincarnationist Professor Ian Stephenson in the 70s, back when they were just 3-9 years old.Did they still 'rememb........ Read more »

  • November 5, 2012
  • 05:31 PM

Exercise And Depression Revisited

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A new study has found little evidence that aerobic exercise helps treat depression, contrary to popular belief.Danish researchers Krogh and colleagues randomly 115 assigned depressed people to one of two exercise programs. One was a strenuous aerobic workout - cycling for 30 minutes, 3 times per week, for 3 months. The other was various stretching exercises.The idea was that stretching was a kind of placebo control group on the grounds that, while it is an intervention, it's not the kind of exer........ Read more »

  • November 2, 2012
  • 07:54 AM

John Bargh's "Transient and Ephemeral" Blogs

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Leading social psychologist and Yale Professor John Bargh has been at the center of a number of controversies lately.Most recently, researcher Brent Donnellan covered a case in which he was unable to replicate one of Bargh's experiments, which prompted Bargh to share his original raw data with him, but on the condition that he never discussed it publicly: What’s the First Rule about John Bargh’s Data? You do not talk about John Bargh’s dataBut a couple of months back, even more ........ Read more »

  • November 1, 2012
  • 01:32 PM

Autism Brain Scans Flawed? You Read It Here First

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

According to a piece in Nature today, a major line of research about autism might be seriously flawed:One of the most popular and widely accepted theories on the cause of autism spectrum disorders attributes the condition to disrupted connectivity between different regions of the brain.This 'connectivity hypothesis' claims that the social and cognitive abnormalities in people with autism can be explained by a dearth of connections between distant regions of the brain. Some flavours of this t........ Read more »

Ben Deen, & Kevin Pelphrey. (2012) Perspective: Brain scans need a rethink. Nature. info:/

  • October 31, 2012
  • 05:13 AM

The Changing Face of British Suicide

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Which jobs are at the highest risk of suicide?In a fascinating new study, British researchers Roberts, Jaremin and Lloyd show dramatic changes over time. 30 years ago, the worst occupations for suicide were the medical professions. Now, it's blue-collar workers, with coal miners topping the list.They used official records of UK suicides, comparing 1979-1983 and 2000-2005. Here's the key data (their graphs, my colours)In the 80s, veterinarians were the most suicidal of all jobs; by 2005, they'd d........ Read more »

Roberts SE, Jaremin B, & Lloyd K. (2012) High-risk occupations for suicide. Psychological medicine, 1-10. PMID: 23098158  

  • October 30, 2012
  • 06:13 AM

Men and Women: From Earth, Not Mars & Venus?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Another day, another debate over how different men and women are, psychologically speaking. Bobbi Carothers and Harry Reis argue that Men and Women Are From Earth.Their approach is rather interesting.We sought to empirically determine whether standard gender differences are better conceived as taxonic or dimensional. Although men and women may differ on average in myriad ways, these differences may be dimensional, reflecting different amounts of a given attribute assessed along a single dimensio........ Read more »

  • October 27, 2012
  • 04:49 AM

Is fMRI About To Get Fifty Times Faster?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

According to a paper just published, a new technique of functional MRI scanning (fMRI) could soon allow neuroscientists to measure brain activity far faster: Generalized iNverse imaging (GIN): Ultrafast fMRI with physiological noise correctionAuthors Boyacioglu and Barth claim remarkable things for the technique:We find that the spatial localization of activation for GIN is comparable to an EPI protocol and that maximum z-scores increase significantly... with a high temporal resolution of 50 mil........ Read more »

Boyacioglu R, & Barth M. (2012) Generalized iNverse imaging (GIN): Ultrafast fMRI with physiological noise correction. Magnetic resonance in medicine : official journal of the Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine / Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. PMID: 23097342  

  • October 25, 2012
  • 05:03 PM

Gene-Guided Antidepressants?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Over the past couple of years, "Big Pharma" has largely moved away from psychiatric drug development. This shift has been widely discussed.But another trend has been happening over the same time period - or so it seems to me. This is the rise of small companies who offer techniques for diagnosing mental illness, or predicting which drugs will work best. Generally (it seems) partnerships between venture capitalists and psychiatry (ex-)researchers, these enterprises might be dubbed "Little Pharma"........ Read more »

Hall-Flavin, D., Winner, J., Allen, J., Jordan, J., Nesheim, R., Snyder, K., Drews, M., Eisterhold, L., Biernacka, J., & Mrazek, D. (2012) Using a pharmacogenomic algorithm to guide the treatment of depression. Translational Psychiatry, 2(10). DOI: 10.1038/tp.2012.99  

  • October 23, 2012
  • 09:46 AM

The Psychology of Edgar Allan Poe

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A paper by psychology undergrad Erica Giammarco offers a look at the mind that gave us The Raven and The Masque of the Red Death: Edgar Allan Poe: A Psychological ProfilePoe lost his mother to tuberculosis at the age of 2; he was then adopted, but his foster mother died young as well. He enrolled at the University of Virginia but became involved in gambling and had to ask his foster father for money; they argued and at the age of 20, Poe was cut off from his family. He married, but his wife suff........ Read more »

Giammarco, E. (2013) Edgar Allan Poe: A psychological profile. Personality and Individual Differences, 54(1), 3-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.07.027  

  • October 20, 2012
  • 03:45 AM

When Replication Goes Bad

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

How to ensure that results in psychology (and other fields) are replicated has become a popular topic of discussion recently. There's no doubt that many results fail to replicate, and also, that people don't even try to replicate findings as much as they should.Yet psychologist Gregory Francis warns that replication per se is not always a good thing: Publication bias and the failure of replication in experimental psychologyAmong experimental psychologists, successful replication enhances belief ........ Read more »

  • October 14, 2012
  • 07:46 AM

More on False Positive Neuroimaging

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Back in June, I warned that the ever-increasing number of clever methods for analyzing brain imaging data could be a double-edged sword:Recently, psychologists Joseph Simmons, Leif Nelson and Uri Simonsohn made waves when they published a provocative article called False-Positive Psychology - Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant.It explained how there are so many possible ways to gather and analyze the results of a  simple psych........ Read more »

  • October 13, 2012
  • 05:56 AM

A New Theory of Psychosis?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A team of British neuroscientists led by the (in)famous David Nutt says that magic mushrooms offer a new theory of psychosis: Functional Connectivity Measures After Psilocybin Inform a Novel Hypothesis of Early PsychosisIt's a reanalysis of a study from earlier this year, which got quite a lot of attention, in which 15 volunteers were injected with psilocybin - the major active hallucinogenic ingredient in 'magic mushrooms' - during an fMRI scan.In a nutshell, the rather interesting proposal in ........ Read more »

Carhart-Harris RL, Leech R, Erritzoe D, Williams TM, Stone JM, Evans J, Sharp DJ, Feilding A, Wise RG, & Nutt DJ. (2012) Functional Connectivity Measures After Psilocybin Inform a Novel Hypothesis of Early Psychosis. Schizophrenia bulletin. PMID: 23044373  

  • October 7, 2012
  • 06:24 AM

Getting The Position Right For EEG

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

In science, it's often the most 'boring', easily overlooked factors that determine whether an experiment succeeds or fails.A new paper reveals strong effects of body posture on brain electrical activity: Subject position affects EEG magnitudes. Just lying face-up as opposed to face-down can powerfully affect the signal measured using electroencephalography (EEG), according to Justin Rice and colleagues of New York.Here's why: EEG uses electrodes, placed on the scalp, to measure the electrical po........ Read more »

Rice JK, Rorden C, Little JS, & Parra LC. (2012) Subject position affects EEG magnitudes. NeuroImage. PMID: 23006805  

  • October 5, 2012
  • 05:28 AM

Are Gay Men Happier?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A neat little study from UCLA psychologists Francisco J. Sánchez and colleagues examines the mental health of homosexual men using a unique identical twin design.The paper kicks off with a remarkably lucid introduction:Men would rather drive around lost than stop and ask for directions. Although this is a gross stereotype, the notion that men should be self-sufficient and able to solve their own problems is a dominant ideal within traditional views of masculinity... men who rigidly adhere to su........ Read more »

  • September 29, 2012
  • 12:35 PM

Brain Wiring - More Mess Than Manhattan?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Earlier this year, Harvard neuroscientist Van J. Wedeen and colleagues published a Science paper saying that brain white matter 'wiring' is organized in a grid-like fashion, with sheets of fibres crossing each other.As Ed Yong put it, that the brain is full of Manhattan-like grids.However, they were wrong - and that neat grid structure was purely an artefact of the method they used. So say London-based critics Marco Catani and colleagues in a Technical Comment just published.Catani et al argue t........ Read more »

  • September 23, 2012
  • 05:57 AM

Publication Bias in Animal Research

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Publication bias has historically been thought of mostly in the context of clinical trials. But I have been banging on for the past 4 years about how it's a problem for more 'basic' science as well. I'm not alone in my concerns as an interesting new paper reveals: Publication Bias in Laboratory Animal Research. The authors surveyed the approximately 3,000 Dutch scientists involved in research on laboratory animals. The response rate was about 20%.When asked how much animal research ends up being........ Read more »

  • September 15, 2012
  • 07:06 AM

Control A Robot With Your Brain?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A paper just out makes the dramatic claim that you can control a robot using thought alone, Avatar style, thanks to a 'mind reading' MRI scanner. But does it really work?Here's how it works. Dutch neuroscientists Patrik Andersson and colleagues bought a robot - an off-the-shelf toy called the 'Spykee' -  is equipped with Wifi and  a video camera. The controlling human lay in the scanner and real-time fMRI was used to record brain activity. The video feed from the robot was showed on a ........ Read more »

  • September 13, 2012
  • 03:40 AM

Brains In A Dish Need Sleep Too?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

All animals sleep, but despite decades of research, neuroscientists still have no clear answer as to why. Now a dramatic new study reveals that sleep may be a fundamental state that even brain cells growing in a dish need.Swiss neuroscientists Valerie Hinard and colleagues cultured mouse cortical neurons in dishes equipped with arrays of electrodes. This allowed them to record the electrical activity produced by the growing 'brain'. They also measured the expression of different genes in the neu........ Read more »

Hinard V, Mikhail C, Pradervand S, Curie T, Houtkooper RH, Auwerx J, Franken P, & Tafti M. (2012) Key electrophysiological, molecular, and metabolic signatures of sleep and wakefulness revealed in primary cortical cultures. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 32(36), 12506-17. PMID: 22956841  

  • September 11, 2012
  • 02:17 PM

Cocktail-Party Neuroscience

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

"That's all very well, but what about the real world?"This, or something to this effect, is a stock criticism of much of psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Studies of human behavior and brain function under carefully controlled laboratory conditions don't tell us much about everyday life, the argument goes.It's a serious point. But a group of neuroscientists have now sought to dispel such worries in rather spectacular fashion. With the help of some nifty wireless headsets, Alan Gevins and co........ Read more »

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