The Neurocritic

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

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  • December 26, 2012
  • 11:56 PM
  • 843 views

Music and Empathy

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

I've been reading the book Rat Girl, a memoir by musician Kristin Hersh, who started the band Throwing Muses in 1980, at the age of 14 (along with Tanya Donelly, Leslie Langston, and David Narcizo). The book recounts an eventful year in her life (1985-86) when, among other things, she is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her band is signed to record label 4AD.Below she describes the intense empathic connection between the band and their music and their audience, which stuck me as a profou........ Read more »

Molnar-Szakacs, I., & Overy, K. (2006) Music and mirror neurons: from motion to 'e'motion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 1(3), 235-241. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsl029  

  • December 17, 2012
  • 02:05 AM
  • 986 views

Want to Be Happier and Avoid Auto Accidents? A TED/BMJ Mashup

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Are happy people responsible for fewer accidents? Should positive psychology be a mandatory module in high school Driver's Ed classes? Taken together, a new paper in the 2012 Christmas issue of BMJ and a recent TEDx talk tell a potentially interesting story about happiness, car crashes, and mind wandering. Let's see how this dangerous idea holds up to scrutiny.Driving and DaydreamingIt seems rather obvious that distraction is not good for driving, regardless of whether the offending diversion is........ Read more »

Galera, C., Orriols, L., M'Bailara, K., Laborey, M., Contrand, B., Ribereau-Gayon, R., Masson, F., Bakiri, S., Gabaude, C., Fort, A.... (2012) Mind wandering and driving: responsibility case-control study. BMJ, 345(dec13 8). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e8105  

Killingsworth, M., & Gilbert, D. (2010) A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind. Science, 330(6006), 932-932. DOI: 10.1126/science.1192439  

  • December 7, 2012
  • 02:06 PM
  • 973 views

The Not So Seductive Allure of Colorful Brain Images

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

We all know that the mere presence of a brain scan image or a neuro-prefix adds instant credibility to any news story, right? And that the public (i.e., undergraduates) is easily swayed into believing in bogus psychological findings if accompanied by pretty colorful brains? Well count me in! But wait...Neuroscience Fiction Fiction?The day after the high-profile Neuroscience Fiction article by Dr. Gary Marcus appeared in The New Yorker, a stealthy blog post in Brain Myths summarized an unpublishe........ Read more »

  • November 28, 2012
  • 07:54 AM
  • 764 views

Bothered by Negative, Unwanted Thoughts? Throwing Them Away Doesn't Help

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

That's my interpretation of a new paper in Psychological Science (Briñol et al., 2012), which differs from the more exciting description given in a press release from APS:Bothered by Negative, Unwanted Thoughts? Just Throw Them Away If you want to get rid of unwanted, negative thoughts, try just ripping them up and tossing them in the trash.In a new study, researchers found that when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw the paper away, they mentally discarded th........ Read more »

  • November 19, 2012
  • 01:05 AM
  • 2,317 views

Vicodin for Social Exclusion

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Cyberball (with apologies to Kipling D. Williams).Cyberball (not the Atari version) is a virtual game designed by social psychologists to be a model for social rejection and ostracism (Williams et al., 2000). The study participant is led to believe they are playing an online ball-tossing game with other people, who then proceed to exclude them from the game. The resultant negative feelings are meant to be a proxy for ostracism based on fundamental attributes such as race, disability, physical ap........ Read more »

  • November 9, 2012
  • 02:12 PM
  • 831 views

The Neuroscience of Speed Dating Choice

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Can brain activity measured while rating potential dates predict later choices at speed dating events?Haven't you lay awake at night wondering if 36 voxels in your rostromedial prefrontal cortex (RMPFC) can predict your future romantic decisions? If you have, you're in luck. Cooper and colleagues (2012) conducted an fMRI study to answer this burning question in the affirmative. "and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower an........ Read more »

  • November 6, 2012
  • 07:05 AM
  • 1,141 views

Cotard's Syndrome: Not Pretending That We're Dead

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Playing dead game --  A craze called the "playing dead game" has swept this nation where people of all ages stage elaborate death scenes everyplace. Believing That We're DeadCotard's Syndrome is the delusional belief that one is dead or missing internal organs or other body parts (Debruyne et al., 2009). Those who suffer from this "delusion of negation" deny their own existence. The eponymous French neurologist Jules Cotard called it le délire de négation ("negation delirium").Cotard's sy........ Read more »

Debruyne H, Portzky M, Van den Eynde F, & Audenaert K. (2009) Cotard's syndrome: a review. Current psychiatry reports, 11(3), 197-202. PMID: 19470281  

Nishio Y, & Mori E. (2012) Delusions of Death in a Patient with Right Hemisphere Infarction. Cognitive and behavioral neurology : official journal of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology. PMID: 23103861  

  • October 21, 2012
  • 05:43 PM
  • 1,119 views

Savoir Faire or Savant?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Is amygdala volume correlated with social network size or with special talents in autism spectrum disorders? Or both??The amygdala is a subcortical structure located within the medial temporal lobes. It consists of a number of different nuclei, or collections of neurons delineated by commonalities in morphology and connectivity. The amygdala is best known for major roles in fear conditioning (Paré et al., 2004) and responding to emotional stimuli more generally (Phelps & LeDoux, 2005), ........ Read more »

Corrigan, N., Richards, T., Treffert, D., & Dager, S. (2012) Toward a better understanding of the savant brain. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 53(6), 706-717. DOI: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2011.11.006  

  • October 13, 2012
  • 08:02 PM
  • 1,016 views

Surrealistic Imaging Experiment #2

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Scene from Le sang d'un poète (1930, Jean Cocteau) 1"It is often said that The Blood of a Poet is a surrealist film. However, surrealism did not exist when I first thought of it." -Jean Cocteau 2In our second installment of Surrealistic Imaging Experiments, Marketing Professor Mohamed M. Mostafa of the Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait was interested in how the brain processes Surrealistic imagery used in advertising (Mostafa, 2012). He approached the background to his topic ........ Read more »

  • October 9, 2012
  • 04:10 AM
  • 899 views

Surrealistic Imaging Experiment #1

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

"The case against the realist position needs to be considered, after considering the materialist position. The latter, more poetic however than the former, admittedly implies on the part of a Man, a monstrous pride, but not a new and more complete degeneration. It should be seen, above all, as a welcome reaction against certain ridiculous spiritualist tendencies. Ultimately, it is not incompatible with a certain nobility of thought.The realistic position, in contrast, inspired by positivism, fro........ Read more »

  • October 3, 2012
  • 01:08 PM
  • 850 views

Law and Order: Psychiatry Unit

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Crime dramas on American television are known for loosely adapting actual news stories "ripped from the headlines" and calling them fiction. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is especially known for this pattern. For instance, in one episode last year a much beloved basketball coach who runs a charitable foundation was found guilty of sexually abusing his young players over the course of many years.In another episode, a well-known politician's long-kept secret is finally revealed after 13 year........ Read more »

Spuijbroek EJ, Blom N, Braam AW, & Kahn DA. (2012) Stockholm syndrome manifestation of Munchausen: an eye-catching misnomer. Journal of psychiatric practice, 18(4), 296-303. PMID: 22805905  

  • September 26, 2012
  • 04:28 AM
  • 961 views

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
  • 917 views

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
  • 1,176 views

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
  • 1,054 views

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
  • 914 views

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
  • 1,285 views

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
  • 1,010 views

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
  • 1,116 views

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
  • 1,007 views

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  

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