The Neurocritic

258 posts · 210,051 views

Born in West Virginia in 1980, The Neurocritic embarked upon a roadtrip across America at the age of thirteen with his mother. She abandoned him when they reached San Francisco and The Neurocritic descended into a spiral of drug abuse and prostitution. At fifteen, The Neurocritic's psychiatrist encouraged him to start writing as a form of therapy.

The Neurocritic
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  • March 30, 2014
  • 07:05 PM

Contest to Reduce Implicit Racial Bias Shows Empathy and Perspective-Taking Don't Work

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

NCAA college basketball isn't the only hot competition involving a team at the University of Virginia.  UVa Psychology Professor Brian Nosek is one of three founders of Project Implicit, a collaborative nonprofit dedicated to the study of implicit social cognition — how unconscious thoughts and feelings can influence attitudes and behavior.Prof Nosek is also heavily involved in the Open Science and Replication movements. Along with graduate student Calvin Lai, he led a mult........ Read more »

Lai CK, Marini M, Lehr SA, Cerruti C, Shin JE, Joy-Gaba JA, Ho AK, Teachman BA, Wojcik SP, Koleva SP.... (2014) Reducing Implicit Racial Preferences: I. A Comparative Investigation of 17 Interventions. Journal of experimental psychology. General. PMID: 24661055  

  • March 24, 2014
  • 12:21 AM

Hippocampal Pathology in California Sea Lions with Domoic Acid-Induced Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

In 1987, over 100 Canadians became ill after eating cultivated mussels from Prince Edward Island. Symptoms included the typical gastrointestinal issues, but serious neurological findings such as disorientation, confusion, and memory loss were also observed (Perl et al., 1990). In the worst cases, the patients developed seizures or went into coma. Three elderly people died. The cognitive changes were persistent, and had not resolved with........ Read more »

Buckmaster, P., Wen, X., Toyoda, I., Gulland, F., & Van Bonn, W. (2014) Hippocampal neuropathology of domoic acid-induced epilepsy in California sea lions. . Journal of Comparative Neurology, 522(7), 1691-1706. DOI: 10.1002/cne.23509  

Perl, T., Bédard, L., Kosatsky, T., Hockin, J., Todd, E., & Remis, R. (1990) An Outbreak of Toxic Encephalopathy Caused by Eating Mussels Contaminated with Domoic Acid. New England Journal of Medicine, 322(25), 1775-1780. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199006213222504  

Teitelbaum, J., Zatorre, R., Carpenter, S., Gendron, D., Evans, A., Gjedde, A., & Cashman, N. (1990) Neurologic Sequelae of Domoic Acid Intoxication Due to the Ingestion of Contaminated Mussels. New England Journal of Medicine, 322(25), 1781-1787. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199006213222505  

  • March 5, 2014
  • 06:15 AM

Warning about Ketamine in the American Journal of Psychiatry

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The dissociative anesthetic and ravey club drug ketamine has been hailed as a possible “miracle” cure for depression. In contrast to the delayed action of standard antidepressants such as SSRIs, the uplifting effects of Special K are noticeable within an hour. “Experimental Medication Kicks Depression in Hours Instead of Weeks,” says the National Institute of Mental Health. NIMH has been bullish on ketamine for years now. Prominent researchers Duman and Aghajanian called it the “the mo........ Read more »

Schatzberg AF. (2014) A word to the wise about ketamine. The American journal of psychiatry, 171(3), 262-4. PMID: 24585328  

  • February 23, 2014
  • 12:25 AM

"Love at first sight is a myth," say Chicago researchers

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Social Neuroscience power couple, John T. Cacciopo and Stephanie CacciopoThis, my friends, is a belated Valentine's Day tale that went oh so wrong...On Feb 14, Scientific American ran a piece about When Scientists Are Mad about Each Other. The cutesy narrative on the Cacciopos described a wonderful story of love at first sight:He was studying loneliness and isolation. She was studying love and desire. When they found themselves together, they gravitated toward her end of the ........ Read more »

S Cacioppo, B Couto, M Bolmont. (2013) Selective decision-making deficit in love following damage to the anterior insula. Current Trends in Neurology, 15-19. info:other/

  • February 9, 2014
  • 08:21 PM

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (after 23 sessions of Emotionally Focused Therapy)

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Can neuroscience illuminate the nature of human relationships? Or does it primarily serve as a prop to sell self-help books? The neurorelationship cottage industry touts the importance of brain research for understanding romance and commitment. But any knowledge of the brain is completely unnecessary for issuing take-home messages like tips on maintaining a successful marriage.In an analogous fashion, we can ask whether successful psychotherapy depends on having detailed knowledge of the mechan........ Read more »

Coan JA, Schaefer HS, & Davidson RJ. (2006) Lending a hand: social regulation of the neural response to threat. Psychological science, 17(12), 1032-9. PMID: 17201784  

Johnson SM, Moser MB, Beckes L, Smith A, Dalgleish T, Halchuk R, Hasselmo K, Greenman PS, Merali Z, & Coan JA. (2013) Soothing the threatened brain: leveraging contact comfort with emotionally focused therapy. PloS one, 8(11). PMID: 24278126  

  • December 30, 2013
  • 10:36 PM

How Can We Forget?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

** This post is meant to be read in tandem with its more complimentary cousin, Electroconvulsive Therapy Impairs Memory Reconsolidation, at The Neurocomplimenter. **spECTrum 5000Q® ECT device (MECTA)Bad memories haunt a significant number of people with serious mental illnesses, such as chronic major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If it were possible to undergo an experimental procedure that selectively impairs your memory for an extremely unpleasant event, would you do i........ Read more »

  • December 30, 2013
  • 10:24 PM

Electroconvulsive Therapy Impairs Memory Reconsolidation

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

** This post is meant to be read in tandem with its more critical cousin, How Can We Forget? at The Neurocritic. **Thymatron® System IV (Somatics, LLC)“Memories are constantly changing, each time we recall them they're physically different.”- me, July 7, 2006The precision of memory over time is a quaint idea. A large body of research shows us that memories are not fixed entities (Alberini & Ledoux, 2013). Every time a specific memory “trace” is reactivated, it enters a transiently u........ Read more »

  • December 21, 2013
  • 11:58 PM

When Waking Up Becomes the Nightmare: Hypnopompic Hallucinatory Pain

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Most of us have had frightening nightmares – someone is chasing after us trying to kill us, or the world is coming to an end. Other disturbing dreams are based on real life anxieties – our partner leaves us, we lose our job, we become homeless. One specific psychiatric condition includes nightmares as part of the diagnosis. Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often have terrible nightmares that relive the traumatic event (Pigeon et al., 2013)We're always glad to wake up fr........ Read more »

Ohayon MM, Priest RG, Caulet M, & Guilleminault C. (1996) Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations: pathological phenomena?. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science, 169(4), 459-67. PMID: 8894197  

  • December 14, 2013
  • 04:26 PM

The Manifestation of Migraine in Wagner's Ring Cycle

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

German Composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) wasn't the healthiest guy. He suffered from heart disease, skin disorders, acute infections, minor ailments, and most prominently, recurring headaches – the “main plague” of his life (Göbel et al., 2013). He complained of “Headache, ‘sick headache,’ ‘dyspepsia,’ ‘nervousness,’ melancholy, insomnia, indescribable suffering... Wagner had all of them all of the time.” (Gould, 1903). Wagner wrote many letters to his doctor, D........ Read more »

  • November 29, 2013
  • 03:29 AM

The Phases of Shopping Addiction

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The blight of Black Friday is upon us. What better time to look at a recent paper on compulsive shopping? Sohn and Choi (2013) adopted a qualitative approach and recruited a small group of Korean housewives with problematic shopping habits via consumer news websites. These nine women ranged in age from 22 to 40. The authors identified their target group as individuals with compulsive buying disorder, who reported a "preoccupation with shopping, pre-purchase tension or anxiety, and sense of reli........ Read more »

  • November 21, 2013
  • 05:13 AM

New Deep Brain Stimulation System Measures Neurotransmitter Release

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Wireless Instantaneous Neurotransmitter Concentration Sensing System (WINCS) Patient Module printed circuit board & sterilizable case. (Fig. 1, Kimble et al. 2009). Last month, the New York Times reported that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will spend $70 million to further the development of technologies that use deep brain stimulation (DBS), which has been highly successful in treating Parkinson's Disease (PD). The SUBNETS program (Systems-Based Neurotechnology........ Read more »

Kimble CJ, Johnson DM, Winter BA, Whitlock SV, Kressin KR, Horne AE, Robinson JC, Bledsoe JM, Tye SJ, Chang SY.... (2009) Wireless Instantaneous Neurotransmitter Concentration Sensing System (WINCS) for intraoperative neurochemical monitoring. Conference proceedings: Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society., 4856-9. PMID: 19963865  

  • November 9, 2013
  • 09:15 PM

Now Is That Gratitude?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Now is that Gratitude,Or is it really love?Some kind of reality That fits just like a glove--Danny Elfman, GratitudePraise and condemnation serve a powerful purpose in our social and internal lives. They prop us up and tear us down. We reward ourselves (and others) when we perform good deeds, give a pat on the back for a job well done. Conversely, we punish bad behavior. Some people are more vengeful than others when they're wronged; other individuals might be more inclined to blame themselves........ Read more »

  • October 29, 2013
  • 06:12 AM


by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Image credits. Left: SUBNETS program (DARPA). Right: BRAIN interim report presentation (NIH).In April, the White House announced the $100 million Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The goals of this bold new research effort are to "revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury." A series of high-profile........ Read more »

Alivisatos AP, Chun M, Church GM, Greenspan RJ, Roukes ML, & Yuste R. (2012) The brain activity map project and the challenge of functional connectomics. Neuron, 74(6), 970-4. PMID: 22726828  

Insel TR, Landis SC, & Collins FS. (2013) Research priorities. The NIH BRAIN Initiative. Science, 340(6133), 687-8. PMID: 23661744  

  • October 12, 2013
  • 05:38 AM

Existential Neuroscience: a field in search of meaning

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

What separates prior from subsequent is exactly nothing. This nothing is absolutely impassable, just because it is nothing...–Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (p. 28).If you read the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN), you might think that Existential Neuroscience is a hot new field, since three recent papers on the topic have been published there. Can it provide profound new insights into the human condition? From what I can tell, these references to a formal di........ Read more »

  • September 30, 2013
  • 04:42 AM

A Neural Circuit for Voracious Overeating in Mice: Translation to Humans

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Optogenetic activation of inhibitory GABA neurons projecting from the limbic forebrain to the lateral hypothalamus causes this mouse to binge on cheese. The rapid onset and offset of the intense feeding behavior is striking. Credit: Jennings et al. (2013).The hypothalamus is a collection of discrete nuclei in the vertebrate diencephalon that control a variety of metabolic, neuroendocrine, and circadian functions. Since the 1940s, the ventromedial nucleus (VM) has been known for its important ro........ Read more »

  • September 27, 2013
  • 03:44 AM

Now we know the brain is "neuroplastic"... in the 19th century

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Until recently, scientists believed our brains were fixed, their circuits formed and finalised in childhood, or "hardwired". Now we know the brain is "neuroplastic", and not only can it change, but that it works by changing its structure in response to repeated mental experience.-Norman Doidge, M.D. (2013). Brain scans of porn addicts: what's wrong with this picture? Wow! I never knew that! You mean the brain can actually learn? And it changes with experience? Really?? Thank you, Norman Doidge, ........ Read more »


  • September 22, 2013
  • 06:56 AM

Neurological Art History

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

“Wound man” woodcut by Johannes de Ketham, originally appearing in Fasciculus medicinae (1491). This image is from Fasiculo de medicina (1494), a translation into Italian by Sebastiano Manilio.We rationalize, we dissimilate, we pretend: we pretend that modern medicine is a rational science, all facts, no nonsense, and just what it seems. But we have only to tap its glossy veneer for it to split wide open, and reveal to us its roots and foundations, its old dark heart of metaphysics, mys........ Read more »

  • September 16, 2013
  • 01:23 AM

Everything's Unscented

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

If you were forced to sacrifice one of your five senses, which would it be? Most people wouldn't consider losing their vision or hearing. It would be really dangerous to completely lose your sense of touch, so that won't be an option in our hypothetical scenario. So we're left with the chemical senses of smell and taste. I think most of us would choose one of these two.But what about someone who can't smell?  How can they miss something they've never known?“If I had to lose one of my sens........ Read more »

Karstensen HG, & Tommerup N. (2012) Isolated and syndromic forms of congenital anosmia. Clinical genetics, 81(3), 210-5. PMID: 21895637  

Tafalla M. (2013) A world without the olfactory dimension. Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007), 296(9), 1287-96. PMID: 23907763  

  • September 8, 2013
  • 03:47 AM

Update on Ketamine in Palliative Care Settings

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Many recent headlines have heralded a new use for the old veterinary anesthetic ketamine, which can provide rapid-onset (albeit short-lived) relief for some patients with treatment-resistant depression (aan het Rot et al., 2012). This finding has been inflated into “arguably the most important discovery in half a century” by Duman and Aghajanian (2012). While finding a cure for refractory depression is undoubtedly an important research priority, might ketamine be useful for other conditions ........ Read more »

  • August 25, 2013
  • 05:27 PM

The Art of Resurrection

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Resurrection, Raffaellino del Garbo (1510)In the world outside of Christianity, horror, and science fiction, the dead cannot be brought back to life. Or can they? A feature in the The Observer from earlier this year profiled Dr. Sam Parnia, critical care physician and author of Erasing Death: The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death (called The Lazarus Effect in the UK). The article begins in a dramatic fashion:Sam Parnia – the man who could bring you back from the ........ Read more »

Mateen FJ, Muralidharan R, Shinohara RT, Parisi JE, Schears GJ, & Wijdicks EF. (2011) Neurological injury in adults treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Archives of neurology, 68(12), 1543-9. PMID: 21825216  

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