Post List

  • January 31, 2011
  • 09:36 PM

Are you becomming your mother?

by W.B. PsychCents in ionpsych

When interacting with your child, have you ever had that moment of utter shock when the words your mother said to you as a child come tumbling out of your mouth before you can stop them? At that moment, you’re … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 09:35 PM

Role of Scientists and the Media in Propagating ADHD Misconceptions

by Michael Long in Phased

Both scientists and the media are to blame for extreme misrepresentations of ADHD neurobiology in the scientific literature and the lay press.... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 09:31 PM

Bears and Bamboo: The fossil record of giant pandas

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Where do giant pandas come from? Of course, the proximal answer involves a male and female panda – and maybe some panda porn, if life in captivity dampens the mood – but I’m not talking about that. What I’m wondering about is the evolutionary origin of these bamboo-eating bears.
Until recently, there was little to be [...]... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 08:36 PM

Distraction during eating reduces fullness & increases subsequent consumption

by Colby in

How many of us are completely focused on our food when we eat?  Modern technology like TVs, computers, cell phones, etc are nearly ubiquitous.  Books, magazines, newspapers are usually always within reach.  Especially if we are alone, it seems almost … Continue reading →... Read more »

Oldham-Cooper RE, Hardman CA, Nicoll CE, Rogers PJ, & Brunstrom JM. (2011) Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(2), 308-13. PMID: 21147857  

  • January 31, 2011
  • 06:35 PM

Splendid Splendiferousness and the “Scary Movie Effect”

by Kelsey in Mauka to Makai

Superman thought he was pretty freaking super and Mighty Mouse thought he was pretty freaking mighty. Therefore, splendid fairy-wrens must think they’re pretty freaking splendid.* And they probably do (especially when compared to their cousins, the less splendidly named lovely fairy-wren and superb fairy-wren). Alas, despite the splendiferous cockiness that their name suggests, male splendid [...]... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 06:30 PM

Death of a hive, a science story

by Captain Skellett in A Schooner of Science

It was late afternoon, and Aethina could smell a hive in danger. Heavy with eggs she felt compelled to investigate. The scent wafted softly though the hot and hazy air, so faint it was barely discernible. Driven by survival, she flew as fast as she could. Weak as the smell was it was hard to [...]... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 03:54 PM

How to be a neuroscientist

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

In this post, I will teach you all how to be proper, skeptical neuroscientists. By the end of this post, not only will you be able to spot "neuro nonsense" statements, but you'll also be able to spot nonsense neuroscience questions.I implore my journalist friends to take note of what I say in this post.Much has already been said on the topic of modern neuroimaging masquerading as "new phrenology". A lot of these arguments and conversations are hidden from the lay public, however, so I'm going to expose the dirty neuroscientific underbelly here.(Image source: The Roots - Phrenology)This post was prompted by a question over on Quora: What is the neurological basis of curiosity? Where does curiosity reside in the brain?The question itself is of a type that is commonly asked in cognitive neuroscience: where is <vague behavior> in the brain?But what does it even mean to ask where "curiosity" is in the brain? What would an answer look like?According to the article linked to in the current top answer on Quora:In study after study, scientists have found that the striatum lit up like an inferno of activity when people didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next, when they were on the verge of solving their mystery and hoped to be rewarded—it was more active then, in fact, than when people received their reward and had their curiosity satisfied."So," you may ask, "what's wrong with that answer? That seems reasonable and sound and very sciencey!"You just got brain-mesmerized!I can prove, with one statement, that this answer is wrong (if you're impatient, jump to point 2 at the bottom).I'm not picking on the person who answered the question; they had no way to know. They were just following the discourse of the media narrative about neuroscience findings.So what is wrong with this explanation (he says, finally getting to the damned point)? I'll break both of these points down in detail later.1. The question is phrased in such a way that it presumes that "curiosity" is a singular thing.2. The question presumes that a complex behavior or emotion can be localized to a brain region or regions. There are several philosophical pitfalls packaged into the answer, such as the ontological commitment to the narrative of cognitive neuroscience and the cerebral localization of function.To be clear, what I'm not saying is that behaviors aren't in the brain. What I am saying is that the cerebral localization narrative is too simplistic.Let me break down these points.1. "Is curiosity a singular thing?"When you ask "where is curiosity in the brain" you assume that researchers can somehow isolate curiosity from other emotions and behaviors in a lab and dissect it apart. This is very, very difficult, if not impossible. Neuroimaging (almost always) relies on the notion of cognitive subtraction, which is a way of comparing your behavior or emotion of interest (curiosity) against some baseline state that is not curiosity.Or, as I say in my book chapter from The Mind and the Frontal Lobes:The underlying assumption in these studies is that activity in brain networks alters in a task-dependent manner that becomes evident after averaging many event-related responses and comparing those against a baseline condition. Deviations from this baseline reflect a change in the neuronal processing demands required to perform the task of interest.2. "Can curiosity be localized to one brain region?"No, it cannot. Here's how I know: I've personally worked with people who have a severely damaged striatum. Know what? They still have curiostiy. If the striatum is where curiosity is in the brain, how can someone whose striata are gone still have curiosty? They cannot. Yet they do. Poof. Hypothesis disproved.Imagine asking "where is video located in my computer?" That doesn't make any sense. Your monitor is required to see the video. Your graphics card is required to render the video. The software is required to generate the code for the video. But the "video" isn't located anywhere in the computer.Now there's a subtlety here. It may be that people with damaged striata have curiosity impairments (whatever that means), which would agree with the fMRI study discussed in that link above, but it proves that the striatum is not where curiosity is in the brain. More technically: the striatum may be a critical part of a network of brain regions that support curiosity behaviors, but that is different from saying that the striatum is where curiosity is.Or, as I say in my chapter:...the cognitive subtraction method... provide[s] details of functional localization that can then be tested and corroborated using other methodologies, including lesion studies. The interpretation of these localization results is confounded, however, by a lack of clarity in what is meant for a "function" to be localized. For example, Young and colleagues (2000) noted that for a given function to be localizable that function "must be capable of being considered both structurally and functionally discrete"; a property that the brain is incapable of assuming due to the intricate, large-scale neuronal interconnectivity.Thus, discussing behavioral functions outside of the context of the larger cortical and subcortical networks involved with that function is a poorly posed problem. Therefore, the scientific study of cognition requires detailed neuroanatomical and connectivity information to compliment functional activity findings.God. I was going to end this with some links to news stories talking about neuroscientists finding out where (love/happiness/hate/prejudice/sexytimes/etc.) were located in the brain, but I just gave up. There are some damned many of them.If you're a journalist and you're reading this, please change the way you talk about these results.If you're a student, if you remember nothing else from this post, just remember to ask, "can a person who has a lesion to that brain region not experience that emotion or do that behavior anymore?" If the person still can, then that is not where that behavior is located in the brain. And, in all likelihood, that function can't be localized to any one region at all.Barres, B. (2010). Neuro Nonsense PLoS Biology, 8 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001005Racine E, Bar-Ilan O, & Illes J (2005). fMRI in the public eye. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6 (2), 159-64 PMID: 15685221... Read more »

Barres, B. (2010) Neuro Nonsense. PLoS Biology, 8(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001005  

Racine E, Bar-Ilan O, & Illes J. (2005) fMRI in the public eye. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6(2), 159-64. PMID: 15685221  

Editors. (2004) Brain scam?. Nature Neuroscience, 7(7), 683-683. DOI: 10.1038/nn0704-683  

Weisberg, D., Keil, F., Goodstein, J., Rawson, E., & Gray, J. (2008) The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(3), 470-477. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20040  

Young, M., Hilgetag, C., & Scannell, J. (2000) On imputing function to structure from the behavioural effects of brain lesions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 355(1393), 147-161. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2000.0555  

  • January 31, 2011
  • 03:40 PM

Iron-deficiency is not something you get just for being a lady

by Kate Clancy in Laboratory for Evolutionary Endocrinology

This post uses literature review, my own empirical research, and a new paper to demonstrate that menstrual cycling does not impact iron status in women. This goes against a major, prevailing medical notion and inhibits appropriate diagnosis in anemic women.... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 03:40 PM

Iron-deficiency is not something you get just for being a lady

by Kate Clancy in Context & Variation

This post uses literature review, my own empirical research, and a new paper to demonstrate that menstrual cycling does not impact iron status in women. This goes against a major, prevailing medical notion and inhibits appropriate diagnosis in anemic women.... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 02:31 PM

Too Many, Too Soon?

by Lindsay in Autist's Corner

Discusses Smith and Woods's (2010) re-analysis of Thompson et al.'s (2007) data on vaccine exposure in infancy and neuropsychological outcome in later childhood, with reference to the current popular idea that early-childhood vaccination schedules call for "too many, too soon."... Read more »

Thompson WW, Price C, Goodson B, Shay DK, Benson P, Hinrichsen VL, Lewis E, Eriksen E, Ray P, Marcy SM.... (2007) Early thimerosal exposure and neuropsychological outcomes at 7 to 10 years. The New England journal of medicine, 357(13), 1281-92. PMID: 17898097  

  • January 31, 2011
  • 02:15 PM

Chronic back pain: Behavioural treatments sent to the naughty step?

by Lorimer Moseley in BodyInMind

We have written a fair amount here about back pain. We’ve criticised some of the information patients get, shown how data has undermined many widely held beliefs about back pain (here and here), and acknowledged the rather desperate state of the evidence in terms of treatment efficacy. It is becoming more popular to see back [...]... Read more »

Henschke N, Ostelo RWJG, van Tulder MW, Vlaeyen JWS, Morley S, Assendelft WJJ, Main CJ. (2010) Behavioural treatment for chronic low-back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. info:/

  • January 31, 2011
  • 01:37 PM

Don’t take the long road home

by PsychBusyBee in ionpsych

Do you take the fastest way home? Are you sure? Really?

I think I take the fastest route to work. I avoid traffic and stoplights, take long straight sections, and make right turns when ever possible. However, I always end up taking a completely different path home. I can't quite say why I do this, but both seem the quickest possible way to and from work. If one route wins the morning commute, why don't I follow the same path in reverse every evening? Continue reading →... Read more »

Sadalla, E., & Magel, S. (1980) The Perception of Traversed Distance. Environment and Behavior, 12(1), 65-79. DOI: 10.1177/0013916580121005  

  • January 31, 2011
  • 12:46 PM

Occupational Therapy & the Cognitive Behavioural Approach For Pain Management – ii

by Bronwyn Thompson in Healthskills: Skills for Healthy Living

In the first post on my commentary of Robinson, Kennedy and Harmon’s review of occupational therapy for chronic pain, I argued that they have misinterpreted the cognitive behavioural approach to pain management, and in particular, that they appear to hold an outmoded view of pain as either biological/organic or psychological, and refute the place of … Read more... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 12:00 PM

Hedging Your Bets

by Merry Youle in Small Things Considered

Bacteria that are born genetically equal aren't necessarily the same. The same genome, residing in cells side-by-side in the same medium in the same flask, does not guarantee the same phenotype. One example that comes to mind is the persisters in E. coli populations—the small number of cells that spontaneously stop growing. If the population is hit by a β-lactam antibiotic, those cells escape death. Similarly, under lab conditions that trigger genetic competence in B. subtilis, only a small fraction of the cells make the switch to competence.

B. subtilis cells growing in a rich growth medium offer yet another example. Here genetically identical cells comprise two distinct types. Most are flagellated and actively swimming about as individuals, while a minority have no flagella and form long chains. The game is different in cells in the stationary phase where virtually all of the cells are found in long chains, bound together by an abundant matrix. Losick, Kolter, and colleagues have been working with this system for some years (for earlier papers, click here and here) seeking to determine how such bimodal cell populations are established and maintained in growing cultures.... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 12:00 PM

Ending public-private partnerships between Big Food and Health

by Yoni Freedhoff in Weighty Matters

Sorry for the late post, the embargo lifted at noon.Today's edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal contains an editorial the I co-authored with Paul Hebert. In it we argue that partnerships between food conglomerates and health organizations should be avoided.The risk is straightforward. Partnerships by definition serve to benefit both parties. For the health organizations the benefits involve some combination of money, resources and exposure. For the food industry the benefits include sales, brand image improvements (which in turn translates into sales) and spin which may serve to help deflect criticism or further political needs. The increase in sales is problematic in that more often than not, the brands that partner with health organizations are the very brands whose images or products may be considered unhealthy. Moreover, the consumption of more food, even more healthy food, won't help with our obesity problem. The usual Big Food suspects involved in such partnerships most often include purveyors of sugared soda, sweets, savory snacks and fast food. While arguments can be made that the funding they provide is helpful and at times may further the needs, aims or research of health organizations, it does so at the expense of those very health organizations serving as inadvertent pitchmen to help sell products that run contrary to their public health aims.Some argue that since all private partnerships (meaning not just partnerships with Big Food) have their warts (things like environmental concerns, fair trade policies, child labour issues, etc.), that the call to action should be for health organizations to abandon all private partnerships. While there may be some merit to that argument it's important to explain the Big Food distinction in that partnership with them involves corporations whose products themselves contribute to the very burdens their partnered health organizations are striving to combat.We all need to stop relying on the food industry. As individuals we need to renew the art of cooking from scratch with whole, healthful ingredients and stop kidding ourselves that reheating, stirring, and mixing count as home made meals. As health organizations we need to find new and novel means to raise funds and awareness. And while divestment may not be fair or easy, given our dire circumstances, can we really continue to afford not to?These partnerships do not exist in a vacuum. Diet and weight related illnesses have become the number one preventable cause of death in North America. Health organizations need to divest themselves from Big Food partnerships lest they contribute unwittingly to that burden. You'll find the full text of our editorial online at the Canadian Medical Association Journal]Yoni Freedhoff, & Paul Hebert (2011). Partnerships between health organizations and the food industry risk derailing public health nutrition CMAJ

... Read more »

Yoni Freedhoff, & Paul Hebert. (2011) Partnerships between health organizations and the food industry risk derailing public health nutrition. CMAJ. info:/

  • January 31, 2011
  • 11:33 AM

Cottonmouth Myths II: Cottonmouth Breeding Balls

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

Cottonmouths, Agkistrodon piscivorus, are so feared and misunderstood that perhaps the most terrifying thing the average citizen can imagine is these snakes in the process of making even more Cottonmouths.  I would guess it is a combination of fear, rural folklore, and maybe just the fact that Cottonmouth biology is not often brought up in school, but there is a lot of ... Read more »

Herrington, R.E. (1989) Reproductive biology of the brown water snake, Nerodia taxispilota, in central Georgia. Brimleyana, 103-110. info:/

  • January 31, 2011
  • 11:26 AM

Teaching evolution

by David Basanta in Cancerevo: Cancer evolution

A few days ago I was talking with some friends and, one of them, a science teacher in a school in Florida told us about how he tried to teach his students about evolution and how he was told...... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 11:16 AM

Do all cities have neighborhoods?

by Michael Smith in Wide Urban World

It's hard to imagine a modern city that does not have neighborhoods. What would residential areas in such a city look like? Is this even possible? Given the prominence of neighborhoods in social science research on life in cities today, I would guess that all modern cities do have neighborhoods. If a sociologist or planner, for example, identified a city that lacked neighborhoods, I'm sure they would study the situation and publicize it for being so strange.For premodern cities whose housing and living conditions are described in historical documents, all or nearly all published examples have neighborhood organization (I haven't found a neighborhood-less city yet, and I haven't given up searching yet). As for cities only knowable through archaeology, my own specialty, neighborhoods are more difficult to identify but some progress is being made (Smith 2010). It seems that any time an archaeologist decides to look into housing and residential zones at an ancient city, the result is the identification of neighborhoods. My article on this is posted here.What do I mean by neighborhood?  These are the working definitions I used in the article:"A neighborhood is a residential zone that has considerable face to face interaction and is distinctive on the basis of physical and/or social characteristics" (Smith 2010:139)."A district is a residential zone that has some kind of administrative or social identity within a city." (p. 140)In the article I give some examples of premodern and nonwestern cities that have numerous small neighborhoods and a smaller number of (larger) administrative districts. The Hindu city of Bhaktapur in Nepal is an example (see Smith 2010 for details and citations). Although it may be difficult to distinguish neighborhoods and districts empirically, these concepts are important because they point to two of the major kinds of social dynamics that define and shape neighborhoods. On the one hand are bottom-up processes arising from social interaction among neighbors, and on the other are top-down processes of administration and control by city or state authorities. Much of what happens in urban neighborhoods is a result of the interaction of these bottom-up and top-down processes within a given built environment.So far, we are batting 1,000. Whether one looks at modern cities, historically documented premodern cities, or archaeologically excavated ancient cities, all have neighborhood organization. But that's not all. Some large village settlements (e.g., prehistoric pueblo socieites in the U.S. Southwest) are divided into housing clusters or zones that resemble neighborhoods. And rapidly urbanizing sites, such as squatters settlements in the developing world, tend to have neighborhood organization. Even Black Rock City, the temporary city that is the site of the Burning Man festival each year, has neighborhood organization (generated by both bottom-up and top-down forces).If neighborhoods are truly a universal aspect of urban organization, two questions are worth exploring: (1) why is this the case? and (2) what are the implications for modern cities and urban policy? Stay tuned, we don't have the answers yet. In the meantime, you can find out about a transdisciplinary research project on urban neighborhoods and open spaces.References:Smith, M. (2010). The archaeological study of neighborhoods and districts in ancient cities Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 29 (2), 137-154 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2010.01.001... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 11:16 AM

Effects of Process Maturity and Uncertainty on SC Performance

by Daniel Dumke in SCRM Blog - Supply Chain Risk Management

Process orientation may or may not be a very hip topic right now. Nevertheless effective processes are a foundation for company performance. Lockamy, Childerhouse, Disney, Towill and McCormack (2008), analyze and explain the impact of process maturity and uncertainty on supply chain performance, the full paper can be obtained here free of charge.

In close collaboration with several businesses they conducted an empirical study on this topic, which I present in the following.

Business Process Orientation and Quickscan
Business process orientation can be described using the dimensions process management, process jobs and process view.
Process management & measurement means that the company is using metrics on aspects of the process such as output quality, cycle time, process cost and variability, in contrast to traditional accounting measures.
Process jobs focus on processes as opposed to functions, and are cross-functional in responsibility.
Finally, process view is the cross-functional, horizontal picture of a business involving elements of structure, focus, measurement, ownership and customers.

Relationship between Process Capabilities and Maturity (Lockamy et al., 2008)

The authors used the Quick Scan methodology with over 20 different supply chains. It consists of the following four methods: questionnaire analysis, process mapping, semi-structured interviews, modelling from numerical data.
Each quick scan took about two weeks at the site of the client and resulted in: a current status of the organization and the supply chain, evaluation of the maturity of its practices and processes and its ability to meet current and future customer needs, furthermore details on the management of uncertainty and interfaces beteween these areas.
Continue reading "Effects of Process Maturity and Uncertainty on SC Performance"
... Read more »

Lockamy, A., Childerhouse, P., Disney, S., Towill, D., & McCormack, K. (2008) The impact of process maturity and uncertainty on supply chain performance: an empirical study. International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management, 15(1), 12. DOI: 10.1504/IJMTM.2008.018237  

Christopher, M., & Peck, H. (2004) Building the Resilient Supply Chain. The International Journal of Logistics Management, 15(2), 1-14. DOI: 10.1108/09574090410700275  

  • January 31, 2011
  • 11:04 AM

The Bank Account for Childhood Sleep

by Rob Mitchum in ScienceLife

It’s a fight all parents are familiar with: the nightly battle to get their children to bed. Kids will try almost any tactic to avoid being tucked in for the night, and even then have long found ways to delay sleep with under-the-cover flashlights. But the deficit of sleep for today’s children and the degree [...]... Read more »

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