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  • May 27, 2015
  • 07:58 AM
  • 49 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
  • 51 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
  • 72 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
  • 76 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
  • 138 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
  • 91 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
  • 52 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
  • 119 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
  • 159 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
  • 157 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
  • 85 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
  • 104 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
  • 142 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  

  • March 28, 2015
  • 09:35 AM
  • 142 views

The World at 7 PM: A Survey of Everyday Life

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

In the Journal of Personality, a new study reports on the uniformity of human experience around the globe: The World at 7: Comparing the Experience of Situations Across 20 Countries


The research was an online survey of a total of 5447 people. Each participant was asked to think about what happened the previous evening at 7 pm. Then they were asked to describe the 7 pm scene by means of 89 statements (descriptors), which included things like: "Rational thinking is called for.", "Situation ra... Read more »

Guillaume E, Baranski E, Todd E, Bastian B, Bronin I, Ivanova C, Cheng JT, de Kock FS, Denissen JJ, Gallardo-Pujol D.... (2015) The World at 7: Comparing the experience of situations across 20 countries. Journal of personality. PMID: 25808415  

  • March 22, 2015
  • 06:52 AM
  • 168 views

Can Neuroscience Teach Us About Winemaking?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Modern winemakers may have erred when they switched to producing high alcohol wines. According to a new paper, from Spanish neuroscientists Ram Frost and colleagues, a low alcohol content wine actually produces more brain activity in 'taste processing' areas than more alcoholic varieties do.



But what does the brain really have to say about Beaujolais? Can scanning help us pick a Sauvignon? Will neuroimaging reveal the secret to a good... er... Nero d'Avola?



In their paper, publishe... Read more »

  • March 20, 2015
  • 06:19 PM
  • 182 views

Can Monkeys Get Depressed?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

According to a new study from Chinese neuroscientists Fan Xu and colleagues, some monkeys can experience depression in a similar way to humans.


The researchers studied cynomolgus monkeys, also known as crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis), a species native to Southeast Asia. Cynomolgus monkeys are highly social animals. Xu et al. previously showed that isolating a monkey from its companions caused it to develop depression-like behaviors. In their new paper, the authors say that they'v... Read more »

Xu F, Wu Q, Xie L, Gong W, Zhang J, Zheng P, Zhou Q, Ji Y, Wang T, Li X.... (2015) Macaques exhibit a naturally-occurring depression similar to humans. Scientific reports, 9220. PMID: 25783476  

  • March 13, 2015
  • 02:05 PM
  • 170 views

To Apply Or Not To Apply For That Grant?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover



When should scientists apply for grants? Does spending more time writing applications pay off in the long run? A paper published in PLoS ONE this week examined the eternal question: To apply or not to apply?



The authors, Ted and Courtney von Hippel, start out by noting that most major grant awards are highly competitive - with success rates of just 20% in the case of US federal NIH and NSF awards. What's more, although decisions are made by a panel of expert judges, the evidence is th... Read more »

  • March 5, 2015
  • 03:01 PM
  • 184 views

Was Neuroscience's Most Famous Amnesiac, "HM", A Victim of Medical Error?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

According to a new paper, one of neuroscience's most famous case-studies came about as a result of a serious medical blunder.

Henry Molaison (1926 - 2008), better known as HM, was an American man who developed a dramatic form of amnesia after receiving surgery that removed part of the temporal lobes of his brain. The 1953 operation was intended to treat HM's epilepsy, but it had the side effect of leaving him unable to form new memories.



The consequences of HM's surgery are well known ... Read more »

  • March 2, 2015
  • 04:06 AM
  • 170 views

Single-Unit Recordings Reveal Limitations of fMRI MVPA?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) is an increasingly popular approach for analyzing the results of fMRI scanning experiments that measure brain activity. MVPA searches for patterns of activation that correlate with a particular mental state. This is called 'decoding' neural activity.

Now a new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience from Caltech neuroscientists Julien Dubois et al. reports that MVPA is unable to decode certain kinds of information, even though single-unit recordings confirm th... Read more »

Dubois J, de Berker AO, & Tsao DY. (2015) Single-Unit Recordings in the Macaque Face Patch System Reveal Limitations of fMRI MVPA. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 35(6), 2791-802. PMID: 25673866  

  • February 28, 2015
  • 04:34 AM
  • 178 views

What are the Unsolved Problems of Neuroscience?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

In an interesting short paper just published in Trends in Cognitive Science, Caltech neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs offers his thoughts on The Unsolved Problems of Neuroscience.





Here's Adolphs' list of the top 23 questions (including 3 "meta" issues), which, he says, was inspired by Hilbert's famous set of 23 mathematical problems:
Problems that are solved, or soon will be:
I. How do single neurons compute?
II. What is the connectome of a small nervous system, like that of Caenorhabi... Read more »

Adolphs R. (2015) The unsolved problems of neuroscience. Trends in cognitive sciences. PMID: 25703689  

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