The Neurocritic

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Deconstructing the most sensationalistic recent findings in Human Brain Imaging, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Psychopharmacology

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  • September 26, 2012
  • 04:28 AM

Of Mice and Women: Animal Models of Desire, Dread, and Despair

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Scene from Mon Oncle d'Amérique by Alain ResnaisDr. James G. Pfaus, a Professor of Psychology at Concordia University in Montreal, recently wrote a post in defense of Naomi Wolf's neuroscience acumen. This is understandable, as he was one of her main sources of scientific information about the "brain-vagina connection" in Vagina: A New Biography. Wolf, as you know, has been under fire for her simplistic and gendered treatment of cortisol and dopamine, as if these chemicals have highly specific ........ Read more »

Adams K. (2011) The abject self: self-states of relentless despair. International journal of group psychotherapy, 61(3), 332-64. PMID: 21728704  

James G. Pfaus. (2006) Of rats and women: preclinical insights into the nature of female sexual desire. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 21(4), 463-476. info:/10.1080/14681990600967011

  • September 12, 2012
  • 01:12 AM

The Electroencephalogram Cocktail Party

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

In 2005, filmmaker Joyce Draganosky made a short entitled The Science of Love, where......the battle between reason and emotion takes center stage. A professor, who believes she has found a way of determining scientifically whether someone is in love, clashes with her department chair, a woman who thinks love and attraction are far too complex to be mapped according to the certainties of science. The clip above highlights a hilarious event designed to determine the neural correlates of love......... Read more »

  • August 26, 2012
  • 03:33 AM

The Art of Delicate Sadness

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Sad Noh masks (from Fig. 1 of Osaka et al., 2012).Noh is a traditional style of Japanese theater where the actors wear masks to convey facial expressions. Many of the masks are known for their ambiguity:As it is often difficult to tell the actual feelings expressed in a noh mask, it is said to be made with a “neutral” expression. The mask carver tries to instill a variety of emotions in the mask. It is up to the performer to imbue the mask with emotion. One of the techniques used in thi........ Read more »

  • August 18, 2012
  • 05:25 AM

Predicting Brain Age from 231 Neuroanatomical Measures

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Is your child's brain on track to reach normal developmental milestones? A paper in Current Biology reports on a new, composite neuroanatomical metric of maturity that predicts 92% of the variance in brain age (Brown et al., 2012). Structural MRI scans were obtained from 885 healthy children and young adults ranging from 3 to 20 years of age. A set of 231 different measurements, or biomarkers, were used to determine the age that provided the best "fit" for each subject. The model made the mos........ Read more »

  • August 11, 2012
  • 03:51 PM

Where Are the Clinical Tests for Psychiatric Disorders?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Examination room, World War 1 (Otis Historical Archives Nat'l Museum of Health & Medicine).The lack of laboratory diagnostic tests for mental disorders, along with the shady marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry, are often viewed as the most fatal flaws in the medical practice of psychiatry. This is especially true among critics of psychiatry, but doctors in other medical specialties tend to have a dismal opinion of psychiatry1 as well (Fazel & Ebmeier, 2009). Widespread pe........ Read more »

  • July 27, 2012
  • 04:18 AM

Online Gaming Addiction, Dysfunctional Families, and the Striatum

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Internet addiction is perceived to be an important problem in some Asian countries, including Taiwan and Korea. Fatal marathon sessions of online gaming, in particular, have drawn a lot of media attention. Most recently, a teen in Taiwan died after playing Diablo III for 40 straight hours in an internet cafe.Yen et al. (2010) speculated on potential cultural contributions to heavy internet use:Internet addiction has been found to be more prevalent in some Asian countries than in the United State........ Read more »

  • July 14, 2012
  • 04:48 AM

Brain Responses to Virtual Reality-Induced Hallucinations in Schizophrenia

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

What is it like to experience the frightening auditory and visual hallucinations characteristic of schizophrenia? Yellowlees and Cook (2006) developed a virtual reality program in Second Life based on interviews with schizophrenic patients. The researchers used this as a tool to educate the general public about schizophrenia, in order to increase understanding and reduce stigma. A video sample of the program can be viewed below.As you can see, these hallucinations are straight out of a horror mo........ Read more »

Yellowlees PM, & Cook JN. (2006) Education about hallucinations using an internet virtual reality system: a qualitative survey. Academic psychiatry : the journal of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training and the Association for Academic Psychiatry, 30(6), 534-9. PMID: 17139026  

  • July 8, 2012
  • 08:25 PM

EMPowered to Kill

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Mentally ill killer tried vitamin therapy, court toldA man with schizophrenia killed his father and gravely injured his mother at their home in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Jordan Ramsay was off his prescribed antipsychotic medication at the time, instead taking an alternative multivitamin preparation called Truehope EMPowerplus™. He believed his parents were aliens and felt compelled to kill them. Ironically, Wendy and Donald Ramsay were in favor of their son's Truehope treatment. But J........ Read more »

Gately D, Kaplan BJ. (2009) Database Analysis of Adults with Bipolar Disorder Consuming a Micronutrient Formula. Clinical Medicine: Psychiatry, 3-16. info:/

Kaplan BJ, Crawford SG, Field CJ, & Simpson JS. (2007) Vitamins, minerals, and mood. Psychological bulletin, 133(5), 747-60. PMID: 17723028  

  • June 17, 2012
  • 08:37 PM

Textmania: a Modern Manifestation of Manic Hypergraphia?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Continuing with the theme of reading and writing, a new study reports on the case of a 23 yr old woman with bipolar I disorder whose output of text messages was "1333.33% more" during a manic episode (Emeagwali et al., 2012):The patient reported a dramatic increase in the quantity of both texting and sex-texting (or sexting) in addition to a decrease in quality of the message content. In addition, there was a substantial increase in the number of people with whom the patient engaged in simultane........ Read more »

Kalamangalam, G. (2009) Hypergraphia in temporal lobe epilepsy. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 12(3), 193. DOI: 10.4103/0972-2327.56323  

Emeagwali, N., Bailey, R., & Azim, F. (2012) Textmania: Text Messaging During the Manic Phase of Bipolar I Disorder. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 23(2), 519-522. DOI: 10.1353/hpu.2012.0062  

  • June 4, 2012
  • 07:27 PM

G r e a t e r / l e t t e r / s p a c i n g / helps reading in dyslexia

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Simply increasing the spacing between letters improves the reading ability of children with developmental dyslexia, according to a group of Italian and French researchers (Zorzi et al., 2012). Dyslexic children were 20% faster and twice as accurate when reading the altered text. This impressive result was obtained without any prior training whatsoever.The study was based on the phenomenon of crowding, where the recognition of individual letters is impaired by the close proximity of surrounding ........ Read more »

Marco Zorzi, Chiara Barbiero, Andrea Facoetti, Isabella Lonciari, Marco Carrozzi, Marcella Montico, Laura Bravar, Florence George, Catherine Pech-Georgel, and Johannes C. Ziegler. (2012) Extra-large letter spacing improves reading in dyslexia. PNAS. info:/

  • June 2, 2012
  • 11:05 PM

Compulsion to write caused by seizure, whether at work or at leisure

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Hypergraphia is a compulsive or overwhelming urge to write, often associated with temporal lobe epilepsy. Influential behavioral neurologist Norman Geschwind included hypergraphia as one of the personality changes that can be observed in persons with temporal lobe epilepsy.An unusual example of hypergraphia was observed by Dr. Mario F. Mendez, who reported the unique case of a 58 year old man who felt utterly compelled to write poetry (Mendez, 2005). The patient reported no previous history of b........ Read more »

  • May 18, 2012
  • 12:24 AM

Blast Wave Injury and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: What's the Connection?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Fig. 3 (Goldstein et al., 2012). Single-blast exposure induces CTE-like neuropathology in wild-type C57BL/6 mice.In a tour de force, a group of 35 Boston-area scientists1 (Goldstein et al., 2012) developed a mouse model of blast-related neurotrauma that resulted in pathological changes similar to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease seen most often in athletes with repeated concussions. They also reported post-mortem neuropathological findings from th........ Read more »

Goldstein, L., Fisher, A., Tagge, C., Zhang, X., Velisek, L., Sullivan, J., Upreti, C., Kracht, J., Ericsson, M., Wojnarowicz, M.... (2012) Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Blast-Exposed Military Veterans and a Blast Neurotrauma Mouse Model. Science Translational Medicine, 4(134), 134-134. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003716  

  • May 12, 2012
  • 05:32 PM

An Orgy of Self-Referential Blogging...

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

...may follow from a new PLoS ONE paper on bloggers whose posts are aggregated at (Shema et al., 2012):The average RB blogger in our sample is male, either a graduate student or has been awarded a PhD and blogs under his own name.The Neurocritic has never been one for meta-blogging.1 I don't like to draw attention to my existence as an actual person, and I don't have time to discuss things like the pros/cons of blogging, scientific outreach, gender imbalances, scientist blo........ Read more »

  • May 10, 2012
  • 08:22 AM

Spindle Neurons in Macaques?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Spindle neurons, or Von Economo neurons (VENs), are a unique type of large, bipolar neuron found primarily in layer Vb in the anterior cingulate cortex and the frontoinsular cortex of humans.1 In 1999, Nimchinsky and colleagues discovered that among the 28 nonhuman primate species they examined, only great apes had VENs [see Spindle Neurons: The Next New Thing?].Spindle neurons are also seen in humpback, fin, sperm, and killer whales (Hof & Van der Gucht, 2007), elephants (Hakeem et al., 2........ Read more »

  • May 5, 2012
  • 06:30 PM

Neurophysiological Explanation for the Perception of Poltergeists

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Poltergeist (1982) - IMDb 1 Poltergeists are defined as paranormal, mischievous ghostly presences that appear to a select group of people. As paranormal entities, they are beyond investigation by rational scientific means. Or are they? Odd sensations, visions, felt presences, out-of-body experiences, etc. have all been explained by unusual brain activity. Hence, neuroscientists should consider that poltergeists exist in the mind of the perceiver, not as a physical reality in the external world.A........ Read more »

  • April 29, 2012
  • 09:26 PM

Little Evidence for a Direct Link between PTSD and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Fig. 2 (Omalu et al., 2011). Photomicrographs of tau-immunostained section of the frontal cortex.Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times the other day about an Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use problems who ultimately took his own life.Veterans and Brain DiseaseBy NICHOLAS D. KRISTOFPublished: April 25, 2012He was a 27-year-old former Marine, struggling to adjust to civilian life after two tours in Iraq. Once an A student, he now fou........ Read more »

  • April 23, 2012
  • 12:42 PM

Magic Buttons, Silver Linings, and Two-Edged Swords

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The Subjective Ups and Downs of Mood DisordersThe last post, Suffering for art is still suffering, took a critical look at studies claiming that individuals with bipolar disorder are more creative.1 And instead of romanticizing the tortured bipolar artist, it considered the toll the disorder can take on those who live with it (and the people around them).Some readers might have objected to the overly pessimistic tone of that post, prompting them to say things like, "It was a very negative post ........ Read more »

  • April 13, 2012
  • 05:06 AM

Suffering for art is still suffering

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait in Hell (1903)"I inherited two of mankind's most frightful enemies — the inheritance of consumption and insanity — disease and madness and death were the black angels that stood at my cradle." 1 -Edvard MunchMany contemporary observers believe that Edvard Munch, the brilliant Norwegian artist best known for The Scream, had bipolar disorder. According to Rothenberg (2001):A diagnosis of bipolar disorder with psychosis is based on his own diary descriptions of visu........ Read more »

Rothenberg, A. (2001) Bipolar Illness, Creativity, and Treatment. Psychiatric Quarterly, 72(2), 131-147. DOI: 10.1023/A:1010367525951  

  • April 8, 2012
  • 09:25 AM

tDCS Symposium Stimulates Giant Brain in Chicago

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The 2012 Cognitive Neuroscience Society Meeting was held in Chicago from March 31 to April 3. The schedule was packed with three and a half days of symposia, slide sessions, and posters. One well-attended event was Symposium Session 2, on non-invasive brain stimulation.Using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation to Enhance Cognitive and Motor Abilities in the Typical, Atypical, and Aging Brain Chair: Roi Cohen Kadosh, University of OxfordSpeakers: Roi Cohen Kadosh, Jenny Crinion, Paulo S. Boggio, Leon........ Read more »

  • April 1, 2012
  • 09:59 AM

Critical Theory in Neurocinematics: Gaspar Noe's 'Irreversible' as Neural Network Reconfiguration

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Cinematic enfant terrible Gaspar Noé has been shocking audiences with his artistic films of graphic violence for over 20 years. In IMDb he is quoted as saying:"There is no line between art and pornography. You can make art of anything. You can make an experimental movie with that candle or with this tape recorder. You can make a piece of art with a cat drinking milk. You can make a piece of art with people having sex. There is no line. Anything that is shot or reproduced in an unusual way i........ Read more »

Hermans, E., van Marle, H., Ossewaarde, L., Henckens, M., Qin, S., van Kesteren, M., Schoots, V., Cousijn, H., Rijpkema, M., Oostenveld, R.... (2011) Stress-Related Noradrenergic Activity Prompts Large-Scale Neural Network Reconfiguration. Science, 334(6059), 1151-1153. DOI: 10.1126/science.1209603  

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