The Neurocritic

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

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  • February 19, 2012
  • 04:21 AM
  • 955 views

That's Impossible! How the Brain Processes Impossible Objects

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Relativity, by M.C. Escher.The artwork of M.C. Escher is famous for its visual trickery. The human visual system tries to project the two dimensional image onto a three dimensional scene, but the perspective is contradictory: it cannot exist in the real world. These impossible constructions violate the laws of geometry and fascinate consumers of t-shirts, posters, and Apple products.How does the brain represent these illusory staircases and towers? While a fascinating topic of study in the field........ Read more »

  • February 13, 2012
  • 01:35 AM
  • 917 views

21st Century Treatments for Insomnia

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Are you having trouble sleeping? But you're not feeling that 19th century retro hipster insomniac vibe? Try some of these behavioral remedies recommended by the finest scientific and medical journals of today.What a Difference a Day MakesIs Intensive Sleep Retraining (ISR) a new overnight treatment for chronic insomnia (Harris et al., 2012)? ISR is conducted in one 25 hr session at a sleep lab, where the insomniac sleeps a maximum of 3 min every 30 min for a period of 25 hrs. Instant cure! (supp........ Read more »

  • January 28, 2012
  • 04:53 AM
  • 867 views

Six

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Today was the sixth anniversary of this blog. I'm not much for meta-blogging or general chattiness, but I thought I would highlight the nine posts (out of 700) with the most comments. Thank you for your support over the years, and keep the comments coming.9. Friston Is Freudian - Friday, March 12, 2010Neuropsychoanalysis is in the news again because of the recent publication of Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. In 2010, first author Carha........ Read more »

Edward Vul, Christine Harris, Piotr Winkielman, . (2009) Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

  • January 19, 2012
  • 07:27 PM
  • 1,194 views

Deep Brain Stimulation for Bipolar Depression

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The Melancholia of Kirsten Dunst and Lars von Trier“Gray wool, clinging to my legs, it's heavy to carry along” The disastrous wedding reception of the severely depressed Justine precedes the end of the world, depicted as a highly stylized and artistic event feared by some but welcomed by others. Kirsten Dunst plays the role of von Trier's own melancholia, which was the inspiration for his film. The image above occurred out of context, at the very beginning, during the bombastic Wagner........ Read more »

  • January 14, 2012
  • 04:10 AM
  • 850 views

Remembering and Forgetting in Traumatized Ugandan Refugees

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Gulu, Uganda (vis photography)Most of us have memories from the past that we'd rather forget. When those memories are of a traumatic nature, they can more difficult to expel from our minds. Unwanted memories can be rejected by means of active inhibitory processes (Anderson & Levy, 2009), but these mechanisms are impaired in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD (Zwissler et al., 2011): Essentially, PTSD patients have trouble remembering what they are supposed to remember........ Read more »

  • January 6, 2012
  • 06:34 AM
  • 774 views

Subjects Wanted to Drink Bourbon and Watch Erotic Films

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Our fun New Year's Eve post reviewed the suspected brain mechanisms of an alcohol blackout, or an episode of amnesia after a bout of heavy drinking (Rose & Grant, 2010). Alcohol-induced alterations of hippocampal circuits are thought to disrupt memory encoding, which can lead to two different types of blackout: en bloc, a complete loss of memory for the affected time period; and fragmentary, where bits and pieces of memories remain. The en bloc blackout is more likely to occur when a large q........ Read more »

  • December 31, 2011
  • 11:21 PM
  • 927 views

Alcohol Blackout

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

This post is for all you New Year's Eve party goers who don't remember where you were or what you did. If that's the case, then you experienced an alcohol-induced blackout. Haven't you always wondered about the clinical manifestations and neurobiological mechanisms of alcohol-induced blackouts? Maybe you have, but you can't remember.A definitive review of the phenomenon by Rose and Grant (2010) explains that there are two different types of blackout: en bloc, a complete loss of memory for the a........ Read more »

Rose, M., & Grant, J. (2010) Alcohol-Induced Blackout. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 4(2), 61-73. DOI: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e3181e1299d  

  • December 24, 2011
  • 09:07 PM
  • 1,074 views

Orthopedic Surgeons vs. Anesthesiologists

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

from Subramanian et al. 2011 [Image: Clive Featherstone]Every year, BMJ [British Medical Journal] has a special Christmas issue with spoof articles and silly studies. Favorites from the past include:Sword Swallowing And Its Side EffectsSex, aggression, and humour: responses to unicyclingRage Against the Machine Syncope and the Texting SignWhy are the letters "z" and "x" so popular in drug names?The clear winner this year is a revenge piece by a group of orthopaedic surgeons and trainees (Subrama........ Read more »

  • December 19, 2011
  • 12:56 AM
  • 951 views

The Disconnection of Psychopaths

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Functional connectivity between the right amygdala and anterior vmPFC is reduced in psychopaths. From Fig. 2 of Motzkin et al., (2011).The last post discussed the case of a 14 yr old boy with congenital brain abnormalities and severe antisocial behavior said to be "consistent with" psychopathy. This label is quite stigmatizing and the diagnosis is a controversial one (Skeem et al., 2011),1 particularly in children. What is psychopathy, exactly? According to Ermer and colleagues (2011),Psychopat........ Read more »

Sundt Gullhaugen A, & Aage Nøttestad J. (2011) Looking for the hannibal behind the cannibal: current status of case research. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 55(3), 350-69. PMID: 20413645  

Motzkin JC, Newman JP, Kiehl KA, & Koenigs M. (2011) Reduced prefrontal connectivity in psychopathy. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31(48), 17348-57. PMID: 22131397  

  • December 15, 2011
  • 12:51 AM
  • 4,507 views

Born This Way?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

A group of investigators from the University of Iowa have published a case report about a 14 year old boy with severe antisocial behavior (Boes et al., 2011):He is aggressive, manipulative, and callous; features consistent with psychopathy. Other problems include: egocentricity, impulsivity, hyperactivity, lack of empathy, lack of respect for authority, impaired moral judgment, an inability to plan ahead, and poor frustration tolerance.MRI findings revealed a small congenital malformation in his........ Read more »

Boes, A., Hornaday Grafft, A., Joshi, C., Chuang, N., Nopoulos, P., & Anderson, S. (2011) Behavioral effects of congenital ventromedial prefrontal cortex malformation. BMC Neurology, 11(1), 151. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2377-11-151  

  • December 2, 2011
  • 12:31 AM
  • 889 views

Meth Really Isn't That Bad for You? (Part 2)

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Methamphetamine Use and Risk for HIV/AIDS... Methamphetamine is very addictive, it can be injected, and it can increase sexual arousal while reducing inhibitions. Because of these attributes, public health officials are concerned that users may be putting themselves at increased risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV infection―a valid concern, considering that methamphetamine use has been linked with increased numbers of HIV infections in some populations [1]. 1 Meth addiction can cause alterat........ Read more »

Salo, R., Nordahl, T., Galloway, G., Moore, C., Waters, C., & Leamon, M. (2009) Drug abstinence and cognitive control in methamphetamine-dependent individuals. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 37(3), 292-297. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsat.2009.03.004  

  • November 29, 2011
  • 06:28 AM
  • 1,531 views

Meth Really Isn't That Bad for You... Or is it?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Image from All Around The House™We all know that meth is a highly addictive, harmful stimulant drug that rots your teeth and makes you paranoid, stupid, unemployed, and homeless -- thereby ruining your life. So just say NO! to meth. Right, kids?Methamphetamine (meth) and other stimulants are best known for their effects on the dopamine system, and hence for their propensity to be reinforcing and addictive. But meth actually increases the release and blocks the reuptake of all three monoamine ........ Read more »

Hart, C., Gunderson, E., Perez, A., Kirkpatrick, M., Thurmond, A., Comer, S., & Foltin, R. (2007) Acute Physiological and Behavioral Effects of Intranasal Methamphetamine in Humans. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33(8), 1847-1855. DOI: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301578  

  • November 14, 2011
  • 03:08 PM
  • 1,210 views

The Return of Physiognomy

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Physiognomy "is the assessment of a person's character or personality from their outer appearance, especially the face." Although one might think of physiognomy as an outdated pseudoscience, along with its brethren craniometry and phrenology, facial phenotyping has undergone a resurgence of interest. Most recently, a study by Wong et al. (2011) looked at facial width and financial success in male CEOs:Can head shape determine chances of business success?Research suggests that the shape of a chi........ Read more »

  • October 31, 2011
  • 03:45 AM
  • 1,050 views

Buried Alive!

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The pathological fear of being buried alive is called taphophobia1 [from the Greek taphos, or grave]. Being buried alive seems like a fate worse than death, the stuff of nightmares and horror movies and Edgar Allan Poe short stories. What could be pathological about such a fear? When taken to extremes, it can become a morbid, all-consuming obsession. In 1881, psychiatrist Enrico Morselli wrote about "two hitherto undescribed forms of Insanity" (English translation, 2001):As the result of some ob........ Read more »

  • October 23, 2011
  • 03:44 AM
  • 1,114 views

Activation of the Hate Circuit While Reading 'Depression Uncouples Brain Hate Circuit'

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

A recent article published in Molecular Psychiatry has the curious title, 'Depression uncouples brain hate circuit' (Tao et al., 2011). Hate circuit, you ask? Is there really any such thing? Is the existence of a distinctive brain circuit for hate so well-established that we ought to go about including it in the title of our papers? And what does it mean for this circuit to be uncoupled in depression? That depressed people no longer have coherent feelings of hatred?The current article refers to ........ Read more »

Tao, H., Guo, S., Ge, T., Kendrick, K., Xue, Z., Liu, Z., & Feng, J. (2011) Depression uncouples brain hate circuit. Molecular Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2011.127  

  • October 11, 2011
  • 06:27 AM
  • 881 views

Rising Mortality Rates for People with Serious Mental Illness

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Fig 1 (Hoang et al., 2011). Trend in standardised 365 day all cause mortality ratio for all people discharged from hospital with principal diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.The "mortality gap" is the differential between the mortality rates for the general population and for persons with serious mental illness (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder). A new study from England examined hospital records for psychiatric patients discharged between 1999 and 2006, and determined how many had........ Read more »

  • October 6, 2011
  • 12:19 PM
  • 1,032 views

New York Times on Addiction and The Insula

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

In Clue to Addiction, Brain Injury Halts SmokingBy BENEDICT CAREYPublished: January 26, 2007Scientists studying stroke patients are reporting today that an injury to a specific part of the brain, near the ear, can instantly and permanently break a smoking habit. People with the injury who stopped smoking found that their bodies, as one man put it, “forgot the urge to smoke.”The finding, which appears in the journal Science, is based on a small study [Naqvi et al., 2007]. But experts say it i........ Read more »

Naqvi, N., Rudrauf, D., Damasio, H., & Bechara, A. (2007) Damage to the Insula Disrupts Addiction to Cigarette Smoking. Science, 315(5811), 531-534. DOI: 10.1126/science.1135926  

  • September 25, 2011
  • 05:40 AM
  • 1,007 views

The Neurophysiology of Pain During REM Sleep

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

In the last post, we learned about The Phenomenology of Pain During REM Sleep. Real life pain can intrude into dreams, as was shown for experimentally induced pain (Nielsen et al., 1993) and in hospitalized burn patients (Raymond et al., 2002). In this post we'll hear about a fascinating experiment that recorded laser evoked potentials directly from the brains of epilepsy patients who were being surgically monitored for seizures (Bastuji et al. 2011). Only under rare circumstances can intracran........ Read more »

  • September 18, 2011
  • 05:26 AM
  • 2,212 views

The Phenomenology of Pain During REM Sleep

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Coarse — Pain in DreamsHave you ever felt pain in dreams? I have. Once I dreamed I was lying on my stomach, getting a tattoo on my calf against my will. Because it was a particularly malevolent tattoo studio, I cried out in the dream. When I woke up, I felt no pain at all. It was false, a figment of the Pain Matrix. Another time a monkey bit me on the arm. Once again, the pain vanished upon awakening.I think these examples of what I'll call "fake pain" are unusual. More common are instances wh........ Read more »

Nielsen TA, McGregor DL, Zadra A, Ilnicki D, & Ouellet L. (1993) Pain in dreams. Sleep, 16(5), 490-8. PMID: 7690981  

  • September 7, 2011
  • 07:07 AM
  • 1,484 views

Chronic Ketamine for Depression: An Unethical Case Study?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

A year ago, Ketamine for Depression: Yay or Neigh? covered acute administration of the club drug (and dissociative anesthetic) ketamine for rapid (albeit transient) relief of major depression. That post was part of a blog focus on hallucinogenic drugs in medicine and mental health, organized by Nature editor Noah Gray following publication of a review article on The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders. At the time, I wrote:Although the immediate on........ Read more »

Messer M, Haller IV (2010). Maintenance Ketamine Treatment Produces Long-term Recovery from Depression. (2010) Maintenance Ketamine Treatment Produces Long-term Recovery from Depression. Primary Psychiatry, 48-50. info:/

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