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Neuroskeptic
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  • July 3, 2015
  • 09:55 AM
  • 25 views

Evidence for "Unconscious Learning" Questioned

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • June 30, 2015
  • 05:14 AM
  • 51 views

Did Parkinson's Disease Influence Hitler?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • June 28, 2015
  • 01:34 PM
  • 63 views

Pharma Make The Most of A Negative Result

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • June 16, 2015
  • 04:54 AM
  • 5 views

Data Duplication in 25% of Cancer Biology Papers?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • June 8, 2015
  • 06:07 PM
  • 109 views

Your Brain Is Bigger In The Morning

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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  

  • June 4, 2015
  • 05:06 AM
  • 157 views

Magnetic Nanoparticles In The Brain and MRI

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • May 31, 2015
  • 08:39 AM
  • 109 views

The Search For Reward Prediction Errors in the Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • May 27, 2015
  • 07:58 AM
  • 148 views

What To Do About A Slow Peer Reviewer?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • May 25, 2015
  • 01:40 PM
  • 141 views

Echoborgs: Psychologists Bring You Face To Face With A Chat-bot

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • May 24, 2015
  • 06:44 AM
  • 143 views

fMRI of the Amygdala: All In Vein?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • May 20, 2015
  • 08:06 AM
  • 144 views

What Can "Lived Experience" Teach Neuroscientists?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • May 2, 2015
  • 02:01 PM
  • 173 views

Spontaneous Events Drive Brain Functional Connectivity?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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  

  • April 27, 2015
  • 04:02 PM
  • 128 views

No Reason To Think That Thinking "Fuels Brain Cancer"

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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  

  • April 25, 2015
  • 05:43 AM
  • 82 views

Rorschach Tests at the Nuremberg Trials

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • April 21, 2015
  • 06:08 PM
  • 152 views

Is Synesthesia A Brain Disorder?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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 »

  • April 18, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 195 views

Is There Signal in the fMRI Noise?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper in Neuroimage suggests that methods for removing head motion and physiological noise from fMRI data might be inadvertently excluding real signal as well.

The authors, Molly G. Bright and Kevin Murphy of Cardiff, studied the technique called nuisance regression. It's a popular approach for removing fMRI noise. Noise reduction is important because factors such as head movement, the heart beat, and breathing, can contaminate the fMRI signal and lead to biased results. Nuisance regres... Read more »

  • April 15, 2015
  • 04:58 PM
  • 189 views

Autistic Traits Aren't Linked To Brain Anatomy?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

According to a large study just published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, there's no correlation between brain anatomy and self-reported autistic traits.





Dutch researchers P. Cedric M. P. Koolschijn and colleagues looked at two samples of young Dutch adults: an 'exploration' sample of 204, and a separate 'validation' group of 304 individuals.

Most of the participants did not have autism. The researchers looked for associations between various aspects of brain ... Read more »

  • April 11, 2015
  • 11:31 AM
  • 122 views

Brain Sarcasm Centre "Totally Found"

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new study published in the journal Neurocase made headlines this week. Headlines like: "Sarcasm Center Found In Brain's White Matter". The paper reports that damage to a particular white matter pathway in the brain, the right sagittal stratum, is associated with difficulty in perceiving a sarcastic tone of voice.





The authors,  studied 24 patients who had suffered white matter damage after a stroke. In some cases, the lesions included the sagittal stratum in the right hemisphere, and... Read more »

Davis CL, Oishi K, Faria AV, Hsu J, Gomez Y, Mori S, & Hillis AE. (2015) White matter tracts critical for recognition of sarcasm. Neurocase, 1-8. PMID: 25805326  

  • April 4, 2015
  • 05:52 AM
  • 145 views

Academic Journals In Glass Houses... (Updated)

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A psychiatry journal, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (JNMD), has just published a remarkable attack on another journal, Frontiers in Psychology. Here's the piece: it's by the JNMD's own Statistics Editor. In it, he writes that:
To be perfectly candid, the reader needs to be informed that the journal that published the Lakens (2013) article, Frontiers in Psychology, is one of an increasing number of journals that charge exorbitant publication fees in exchange for free open access to p... Read more »

  • April 2, 2015
  • 06:25 AM
  • 162 views

Did A Soviet Psychiatrist Discover Autism In 1925?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Who discovered autism? Traditionally, the priority has been ascribed to two psychiatrists, Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, who both published independent but remarkably similar descriptions of the syndrome in 1943 - 44 (although Asperger had released a preliminary description in 1938.)




But according to a new paper in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, both Kanner and Asperger were scooped by nearly two decades - by a Soviet child psychiatrist, Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva. She described a syn... Read more »

Manouilenko I, & Bejerot S. (2015) Sukhareva - Prior to Asperger and Kanner. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 1-4. PMID: 25826582  

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