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Comments on neurobiology, neuroimaging, and psychiatry from a skeptical neuroscientist.

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  • April 14, 2013
  • 10:56 AM

The Man With Uncrossed Eyes

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

“GB” is a 28 year old man with a curious condition: his optic nerves are in the wrong place. Most people have an optic chiasm, a crossroads where half of the signals from each eye cross over the midline, in such a way that each half of the brain gets information from one side of [...]... Read more »

  • April 8, 2013
  • 09:18 AM

Anonymity In Science – New Neuroskeptic Paper

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Six months ago, I proudly announced Blogging’s First Academic Paper. That was when Perspectives in Psychological Science became the first scientific journal to publish an article under a blogging pseudonym (an adaptation of this post). But while the blogging bit was new, many scientists have published work anonymously or pseudonymously before… as I explain in [...]... Read more »

Neuroskeptic. (2013) Anonymity in Science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.03.004  

  • April 7, 2013
  • 06:45 AM

The Brain, Speaking In Tongues?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Glossolalia – ‘speaking in tongues‘ – is a practice best known in association with ‘Charismatic’ branches of Christianity. Practitioners, often as part of religious services, produce streams of speech which correspond to no known language. But could glossolalia sometimes be associated with a brain abnormality? Here’s an interesting case report: Temporal lobe discharges and glossolalia [...]... Read more »

Reeves, R., Kose, S., & Abubakr, A. (2013) Temporal lobe discharges and glossolalia. Neurocase, 1-5. DOI: 10.1080/13554794.2013.770874  

  • April 5, 2013
  • 09:16 AM

“Genetic Test for Autism” Criticized

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Last year, there was quite a bit of excitement over a “Genetic Test To Predict Risk for Autism”. The test was revealed in a paper in Molecular Psychiatry, by Australian researchers Skafidas and colleagues. The claim was that a statistical classifier could spot patterns of genetic variation that differed between people with autism and healthy [...]... Read more »

Belgard, T., Jankovic, I., Lowe, J., & Geschwind, D. (2013) Population structure confounds autism genetic classifier. Molecular Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2013.34  

  • March 26, 2013
  • 04:36 PM

Brain Activation: Does 2 2 = 4?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

An interesting Journal of Neuroscience paper just out argues that Spontaneous and Task-Evoked Brain Activity Negatively Interact. If true, this could be explosive, because a lot of neuroscience is built on the assumption that those two things don’t interact. So what’s going on? We know that the brain is active all of the time. Even [...]... Read more »

He BJ. (2013) Spontaneous and task-evoked brain activity negatively interact. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 33(11), 4672-82. PMID: 23486941  

  • March 25, 2013
  • 05:00 PM

Tea Party Brain Surgeon Wants To Shave You

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

I’m currently researching a piece on politics and neurosurgery, and I just came across this amusing snippet. David McKalip MD is a brain surgeon from Florida. He attained 15 minutes of infamy in 2009 when he deemed a virulently racially insensitive of Barack Obama to be “funny stuff” and emailed it to some Tea Party [...]... Read more »

McKalip D. (2013) Letter to the editor: shaving. Journal of neurosurgery, 118(3), 701-2. PMID: 23259824  

  • March 18, 2013
  • 07:07 AM

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: A Loud Warning

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is popular tool in neuroscience. A TMS kit is essentially a portable, powerful electromagnet, called a ‘coil’. Switching on the coil causes it to emit a magnetic pulse, and this magnetic field is strong enough to evoke electrical activity in the brain. So, by placing the TMS coil next to someone’s [...]... Read more »

  • March 15, 2013
  • 11:30 AM

When Does Depression Become A Disease?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

When does sadness cease to be a normal emotional response, and become a mental disorder? Can psychiatrists ‘draw the line’ between healthy and sick moods, and if so, where? An important new study offers an answer: When does depression become a disorder? Using recurrence rates to evaluate the validity of proposed changes in major depression [...]... Read more »

  • March 11, 2013
  • 02:20 PM

Is Food Addictive?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Can food be addictive? Is obesity sometimes a form of substance abuse?   In a new paper, neuroscientist and Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow, muses on ‘The Addictive Dimensionality of Obesity’ Volkow and her coauthors start out with a disclaimer – “we do not claim that obesity is the result [...]... Read more »

Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Tomasi D, & Baler RD. (2013) The Addictive Dimensionality of Obesity. Biological psychiatry. PMID: 23374642  

  • March 9, 2013
  • 01:06 PM

More Bad News For Voice “Lie Detection”

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

“Layered Voice Analysis” (LVA) is a controversial technology promoted as a tool for helping detect stress and other emotions by analysis of the human voice. According to the company behind the method, Nemesysco: LVA technology enables better understanding of your suspect’s mental state and emotional makeup at a given moment by detecting the emotional cues [...]... Read more »

  • March 3, 2013
  • 06:48 AM

Windfarms, Wifi and Self-Fulfilling Myths

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Modern life is toxic. …allegedly. It’s not. But a lot of people think so. Driven by media and online coverage of the idea, many believe that things like wifi and cell-phone signals are making them ill. There’s no good evidence that such ‘electrosmog‘ causes health problems. From what we know of physics, it’s most unlikely [...]... Read more »

  • February 25, 2013
  • 05:17 PM

Vladimir Lenin’s Stoney Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Einstein’s brain. Less well-known, but equally fascinating, is the case of Lenin‘s cerebrum – for just like Albert, the founder of the Soviet Union was fated to end up as a series of preserved slices. Lenin died of a series of strokes at the young age of [...]... Read more »

  • February 24, 2013
  • 09:21 AM

“Know Thyself” Is A Lot To Ask

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

I’ve written before about the limitations of self-report measures in psychiatry. It’s an issue that’s been recognized for decades but, unfortunately, self-report seems to be more popular than ever. I suspect that this is because it’s far and away the easiest and cheapest way of getting data, and hence publications, in a great many fields [...]... Read more »

Miller RM, Haws NA, Murphy-Tafiti JL, Hubner CD, Curtis TD, Rupp ZW, Smart TA, & Thompson LM. (2013) Are Self-Ratings of Functional Difficulties Objective or Subjective?. Applied neuropsychology. Adult. PMID: 23383984  

  • February 20, 2013
  • 02:40 PM

The World’s Most Problematic Videogames

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Is ‘video game addiction’ a useful concept? Some people certainly play an awful lot of games, and therefore have little of a life outside of them; but that doesn’t in itself mean that games are harming them. Maybe that’s just how they prefer to live. Maybe games are just filling a void that would otherwise [...]... Read more »

  • February 19, 2013
  • 04:06 PM

Better Journals… Worse Statistics?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Some of the world’s leading scientific journals are worryingly lax in ensuring that their papers contain adequate statistical details. So say Italian researchers Tressoldi and colleagues in a provocative paper just out: High Impact = High Statistical Standards? Not Necessarily So They considered all articles published in 2011, that concerned any kind of psychological or [...]... Read more »

Tressoldi PE, Giofré D, Sella F, & Cumming G. (2013) High Impact . PLoS ONE, 8(2). PMID: 23418533  

  • February 6, 2013
  • 05:23 PM

Still ‘Profiteering From Anxiety’

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Late last year, the excellent Neurobonkers blog covered a case of ‘Profiteering from anxiety’. It seems one Nader Amir has applied for a patent on the psychological technique of ‘Attentional Retraining’, a method designed to treat anxiety and other emotional problems by conditioning the mind to unconsciously pay more attention to positive things and ignore [...]... Read more »

Amir, N., & Taylor, C. (2013) Correction to Amir and Taylor (2012). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(1), 74-74. DOI: 10.1037/a0031156  

Amir, N., Taylor, C., & Donohue, M. (2013) Correction to Amir et al. (2011). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(1), 112-112. DOI: 10.1037/a0031157  

  • January 28, 2013
  • 03:22 PM

Another Scuffle In The Coma Ward

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

It’s not been a good few weeks for Adrian Owen and his team of Canadian neurologists. Over the past few years, Owen’s made numerous waves, thanks to his claim that some patients thought to be in a vegetative state may, in fact, be at least somewhat conscious, and able to respond to commands. Remarkable if [...]... Read more »

  • January 27, 2013
  • 05:46 AM

Is This How Memory Works?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

We know quite a bit about how long-term memory is formed in the brain – it’s all about strengthening of synaptic connections between neurons. But what about remembering something over the course of just a few seconds? Like how you (hopefully) still recall what that last sentence as about? Short-term memory is formed and lost [...]... Read more »

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