47 posts · 30,953 views
Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology, University of Oxford, UK. Interested in neurodevelopmental disorders, genetics, language, laterality.
UK universities are gearing up for REF2014, a nationwide evaluation of research quality, on the basis of which central funding will be determined. Before the funding formula is specified, we need a discussion about whether we should be focusing mainly on supporting elite institutions, or whether it would be preferable to distribute funds more widely.... Read more »
Fortin JM, & Currie DJ. (2013) Big Science vs. Little Science: How Scientific Impact Scales with Funding. PloS one, 8(6). PMID: 23840323
Yet another neuroscience study has been published with a misleading press release suggesting application to intervention in children with autism and related disorders. I argue that press releases should not mention a disorder unless the research involves that clinical group, and should put findings, rather than speculation, in headlines.... Read more »
Bishop, D. V. M. (2013) Cerebral asymmetry and language development: Cause, correlate, or consequence?. Science, 340(6138). DOI: 10.1126/science.1230531
The UK Government introduced a phonics screening test to be used with 6-year-olds in UK schools. Results for 2013 show higher levels of children doing well than in 2012. However, doubts about the accuracy of the data are raised by the weird distribution of scores, suggesting that teachers may have modified children's scores upward if they are close to the pass mark. ... Read more »
Butler, Susan R., Marsh, Herbert W., Sheppard, Marlene J., & Sheppard, John L. (1985) Seven-year longitudinal study of the early prediction of reading achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 349-361. DOI: 10.1037//0022-06184.108.40.2069
The RALLI campaign was started in order to ensure that impartial, evidence-based information about language disorders in children was freely available on the internet.
An index of the videos and other materials generated over the past 18 months is provided here.... Read more »
Bishop, Dorothy V. M., Clark, Becky, Conti-Ramsden, Gina, Norbury, Courtenay Frazier, & Snowling, Margaret J. (2012) RALLI: An internet campaign for raising awareness of language learning impairments. Child Language Teaching , 28(3), 259-262. DOI: 10.1177/0265659012459467
Early career scientists often imagine that senior academics are able to spend much of their time doing research. The reality is that an increasing proportion of time is taken up with evaluation: reviewing papers and grants, writing references, examining theses, etc.... Read more »
Fogelholm, Mikael, Leppinen, Saara, Auvinen, Anssi, Raitanen, Jani, Nuutinen, Anu, & Väänänen, Kalervo. (2012) Panel discussion does not improve reliability of peer review for medical research grant proposals. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 65(1), 47-52. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2011.05.001
In July 2013, López-Barroso et al published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claiming that structural and functional measures of the left arcuate fasciculus predicted word learning ability. I present a critique of this study, and of the media coverage of its implications... Read more »
López-Barroso D, Catani M, Ripollés P, Dell'acqua F, Rodríguez-Fornells A, & de Diego-Balaguer R. (2013) Word learning is mediated by the left arcuate fasciculus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(32), 13168-73. PMID: 23884655
There has been a chorus of disapproval this week at the suggestion that researchers should 'pre-register' their studies with journals and spell out in advance the methods and analyses that they plan to do. Those who wish to follow the debate should look at this critique by Sophie Scott, with associated comments, and the responses to it collated by Pete Etchells. They should also read the explanation of the pre-registration proposals and FAQ by Chris Chambers.
Quite simply, pre-regist........ Read more »
Munafo, M, & Flint, J. (2011) Dissecting the genetic architecture of human personality. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(9), 395-400. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2011.07.007
A press release by Yale University Press Office claimed that "A new study of the genetic origins of dyslexia and other learning disabilities could allow for earlier diagnoses and more successful interventions, according to researchers at Yale School of Medicine. Many students now are not diagnosed until high school, at which point treatments are less effective." The account by the Press Office is hard to square with the abstract of the paper, which makes no mention of early diagnosis o........ Read more »
Powers, N., Eicher, J., Butter, F., Kong, Y., Miller, L., Ring, S., Mann, M., & Gruen, J. (2013) Alleles of a Polymorphic ETV6 Binding Site in DCDC2 Confer Risk of Reading and Language Impairment. The American Journal of Human Genetics. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2013.05.008
What should you do if you run an ANOVA and get a significant result you did not anticipate?
a) Describe this as my main effect of interest, revising my hypothesis to argue for a site-specific sex effect
b) Describe the result as an exploratory finding in need of replication
c) Ignore the result as it was not predicted and is likely to be a false positive
In this post I discuss how unexpected results are very likely to arise by chance, especially in designs with 3 or more factors. The scient........ Read more »
Guest post by Patrick Rabbitt, commenting on an article that claimed that simple reaction time is slower now than in the Victorian era. Mundane differences in equipment sensitivity may be responsible... Read more »
Michael A. Woodley, Jan te Nijenhuis, & Raegan Murphy. (2013) Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time. Intelligence. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2013.04.006
I find the numbered (Vancouver) referencing system adopted by many journals very irritating, and I explain why.... Read more »
Clauss, M., Müller, D., & Codron, D. (2013) Source References and the Scientist's Mind-Map: Harvard vs. Vancouver Style. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 44(3), 274-282. DOI: 10.3138/jsp.44.3.005
In a previous blogpost, I criticized a recent paper claiming that playing action video games improved reading in dyslexics. In a series of comments below the blogpost, two of the authors have responded to my criticisms. I thank them for taking the trouble to spell out their views and giving readers the opportunity to see another point of view. I am, however, not persuaded by their arguments, which make two main points. First, that their study was not methodologically weak and so Current Biology ........ Read more »
Ioannidis JP, Pereira TV, & Horwitz RI. (2013) Emergence of large treatment effects from small trials--reply. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 309(8), 768-9. PMID: 23443435
Because it is hard to get a paper published in a high-impact journal, it is often assumed that such papers are of particularly high quality. In practice, however, these journals focus more on newsworthiness of findings than methodological rigour, and, as Tressoldi et al (2013) have shown, their standards of statistical reporting can be low. This point is illustrated by a recent paper in Current Biology entitled "Action video games make dyslexic children read better." This study was ser........ Read more »
According to Lindley and Machin (2012) "It is very clear that the individuals who have done better in terms of wages are those who have acquired higher education qualifications. In turn, the acquisition of higher qualifications has become more skewed towards people from wealthier backgrounds." This issue was highlighted last month when a potential student sued an Oxford college who refused him admission because he did not have sufficient funds to meet their cost of living requirement. ........ Read more »
Lindley, J., & Machin, S. (2012) The Quest for More and More Education: Implications for Social Mobility*. Fiscal Studies, 33(2), 265-286. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5890.2012.00161.x
In 2014, British institutions of Higher Education are to be evaluated in the Research Excellence Framework (REF), an important exercise on which their future funding depends. Academics are currently undergoing scrutiny by their institutions to determine whether their research outputs are good enough to be entered in the REF. Outputs are to be assessed in terms of "‘originality, significance and rigour’, with reference to international research quality standards." Use of jo........ Read more »
Studies comparing people with different genotypes on neuroimaging measures are increasingly popular. Non-replicable results are likely unless researchers are scrupulous about how they conduct and report their research: I suggest some basic ground rules.... Read more »
Scott-Van Zeeland, A., Abrahams, B., Alvarez-Retuerto, A., Sonnenblick, L., Rudie, J., Ghahremani, D., Mumford, J., Poldrack, R., Dapretto, M., Geschwind, D.... (2010) Altered Functional Connectivity in Frontal Lobe Circuits Is Associated with Variation in the Autism Risk Gene CNTNAP2. Science Translational Medicine, 2(56), 56-56. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001344
I discuss a study by Sun et al which claims to have identified genes that are asymmetrically expressed in the brain of 12- to 14-month-old human embryos. I argue that the methods seem to take insufficient account of the possibility of chance fluctuations in the measurements, and the numbers of asymmetries that have been found are not impressive, given the huge number of genes that were investigated.... Read more »
Sun T, Patoine C, Abu-Khalil A, Visvader J, Sum E, Cherry TJ, Orkin SH, Geschwind DH, & Walsh CA. (2005) Early asymmetry of gene transcription in embryonic human left and right cerebral cortex. Science (New York, N.Y.), 308(5729), 1794-8. PMID: 15894532
There is much concern about underrepresentation of women in some sciences, but less has been written about under-representation of men in psychology. This is a growing trend, but the question is whether anything should be done about it.... Read more »
Marc Smith. (2011) Failing boys, failing psychology. The Psychologist, 24(5), 390-391. info:other/WOS:000290745000037
Howard, A., & et al, . (1986) The changing face of American psychology: A report from the Committee on Employment and Human Resources. American Psychologist, 41(12), 1311-1327. DOI: 10.1037//0003-066X.41.12.1311
Describes the mendelian randomisation method used in a recent PLOS One paper by Lewis et al as evidence for a negative impact of moderate drinking in pregnancy on the child's IQ. This is a nice method, but the use of stepwise regression to identify genetic loci associated with outcomes runs the risk of generating spurious results. ... Read more »
Lewis SJ, Zuccolo L, Davey Smith G, Macleod J, Rodriguez S, Draper ES, Barrow M, Alati R, Sayal K, Ring S.... (2012) Fetal Alcohol Exposure and IQ at Age 8: Evidence from a Population-Based Birth-Cohort Study. PloS one, 7(11). PMID: 23166662
The high profile journal, the New England Journal of Medicine, recently published a paper reporting an association between a nation's number of Nobel laureates per head and mean chocolate consumption. Was this intended seriously? It is hard to believe so, since very obvious explanations for the association were not tested, though they could easily have been. Nevertheless, there's no indication that the journal was using this example to demonstrate the perils of assuming causation from ........ Read more »
Messerli, F. (2012) Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates. New England Journal of Medicine, 367(16), 1562-1564. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMon1211064
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