195 posts · 70,367 views
Comments on neurobiology, neuroimaging, and psychiatry from a skeptical neuroscientist.
According to British biochemist Donald R. Forsdyke in a new paper in Biological Theory, the existence of people who seem to be missing most of their brain tissue calls into question some of the "cherished assumptions" of neuroscience.
I'm not so sure.
Forsdyke discusses the disease called hydrocephalus ('water on the brain'). Some people who suffer from this condition as children are cured thanks to prompt treatment. Remarkably, in some cases, these post-hydrocephalics turn out to have... Read more »
Forsdyke, D. (2015) Wittgenstein’s Certainty is Uncertain: Brain Scans of Cured Hydrocephalics Challenge Cherished Assumptions. Biological Theory. DOI: 10.1007/s13752-015-0219-x
Can the thought of money make people more conservative?
The idea that mere reminders of money can influence people's attitudes and behaviors is a major claim within the field of social priming - the study of how our behavior is unconsciously influenced by seemingly innocuous stimuli. However, social priming has been controversial lately with many high profile failures to replicate the reported effects.
Now, psychologists Doug Rohrer, Hal Pashler, and Christine Harris have joined the sk... Read more »
Doug Rohrer, Harold Pashler, & Christine R. Harris. (2015) Do Subtle Reminders of Money Change People’s Political Views?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. info:/
Can our beliefs, motivations and emotions influence our visual perception? Are cognition and perception ultimately inseparable?
A lot of recent psychological research says "yes" to the question. For instance, it has been claimed that carrying a heavy backpack makes a hill look - not just feel - steeper. Other researchers say that feeling sad makes things seem darker - not just metaphorically, but literally.
However, according to a new paper by Yale psychologists Chaz Firestone & Br... Read more »
Firestone C, & Scholl BJ. (2015) Cognition does not affect perception: Evaluating the evidence for 'top-down' effects. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1-77. PMID: 26189677
A new paper published in Cognitive Processes argues that neuroscientists may need to look at brain activity from a new angle, in order to understand neural dynamics.
According to the authors, David Alexander et al. of Leuven in Belgium,
A ubiquitous methodological practice in cognitive neuroscience is to obtain measure of brain activity by analyzing the time course of activity alone, or the spatial topography of activity alone.
This usually results in throwing away most of the data as... Read more »
Alexander DM, Trengove C, & van Leeuwen C. (2015) Donders is dead: cortical traveling waves and the limits of mental chronometry in cognitive neuroscience. Cognitive processing. PMID: 26139038
A talking white elephant called Slizamandee could save the world with his wisdom and "teach us with the deepest voice of history", according to an academic paper published today.
The article appeared in the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. The authors are led by Otto E. Rössler, a biochemist. It's called Is it Ethical to heal a young white Elephant from his physiological Autism? Many thanks to Michelle Dawson for bringing it to my attention.
Rössler et al. start ou... Read more »
Rossler, O., Theis, C., Heiter, J., Fleischer, W., & Student, A. (2015) Is it Ethical to heal a young white Elephant from his physiological Autism?. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2015.06.020
Can we learn without being aware of what we're learning? Many psychologists say that 'unconscious', or implicit, learning exists.
But in a new paper, London-based psychologists Vadillo, Konstantinidis, and Shanks call the evidence for this into question.
Vadillo et al. focus on one particular example of implicit learning, the contextual cueing paradigm. This involves a series of stimulus patterns, each consisting of a number of "L" shapes and one "T" shape in various orientations. For ... Read more »
Vadillo MA, Konstantinidis E, & Shanks DR. (2015) Underpowered samples, false negatives, and unconscious learning. Psychonomic bulletin . PMID: 26122896
A new paper from a group of American neurologists makes the case that Hitler suffered from Parkinson's disease for much of his life, and that some of his most fateful decisions were influenced by the neurological disorder.
The article is by Raghav Gupta and colleagues and it appears in World Neurosurgery - a journal with an interesting political history of its own.
Gupta et al. note that
The possibility of Hitler suffering from Parkinson's has long been the subject of debate... [a res... Read more »
Gupta R, Kim C, Agarwal N, Lieber B, & Monaco EA 3rd. (2015) Understanding the Influence of Parkinson's Disease on Adolf Hitler's Decision-Making during World War II. World neurosurgery. PMID: 26093359
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
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