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Neuroskeptic
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  • August 27, 2015
  • 11:37 AM
  • 36 views

The Man Who Saw His Double In The Mirror

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A creepy case report in the journal Neurocase describes a man who came to believe that his reflection was another person who lived behind the mirror.





The patient, Mr. B., a 78-year-old French man, was admitted to the neurology department in Tours:
During the previous 10 days, Mr. B. reported the presence of a stranger in his home who was located behind the mirror of the bathroom and strikingly shared his physical appearance. The stranger was a double of himself: he was the same size,... Read more »

  • August 26, 2015
  • 05:54 PM
  • 49 views

Non-Visual Processing in the Visual Cortex

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Are there areas of the cerebral cortex purely devoted to vision? Or can the "visual" cortex, under some conditions, respond to sounds? Two papers published recently address this question.



First off, Micah Murray and colleagues of Switzerland discuss The multisensory function of primary visual cortex in humans in a review paper published in Neuropsychologia.

They criticize the conventional view that the primary visual cortex (in the occipital lobe) is little more than a reception point ... Read more »

Bedny M, Richardson H, & Saxe R. (2015) "Visual" Cortex Responds to Spoken Language in Blind Children. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 35(33), 11674-81. PMID: 26290244  

Murray MM, Thelen A, Thut G, Romei V, Martuzzi R, & Matusz PJ. (2015) The multisensory function of primary visual cortex in humans. Neuropsychologia. PMID: 26275965  

  • August 20, 2015
  • 07:32 AM
  • 87 views

The Myth of Beer Goggles?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new study casts doubt on the idea that alcohol causes people to seem more attractive - the famous "beer goggles" effect.



Psychologists Olivia Maynard and colleauges, of Bristol, UK, conducted an unusual "real world" experiment.  Rather than doing their testing in the laboratory, they went into three Bristol pubs in the evening (5-11 pm) and recruited volunteers on the spot. With a total sample size of 311, it was a very large sample.

Each participant was breathalyzed to estimate thei... Read more »

  • August 10, 2015
  • 04:59 PM
  • 111 views

Are There Too Many Meta-Analyses? (Updated)

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Meta-analyses are systematic syntheses of scientific evidence, most commonly randomized controlled clinical trials. A meta-analysis combines the results of multiple studies and can lead to new insights and more reliable results.

However, according to Italian surgeon Giovanni Tebala writing in Medical Hypotheses, meta-analyses are becoming too popular, and are in danger of taking over the medical literature.



Searching the PubMed database, Tebala shows that the yearly rate of publication... Read more »

  • August 7, 2015
  • 10:13 AM
  • 126 views

No Evidence for an Early Dementia Epidemic

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Another day, another alarming brain-related story hits the news:
Dementia is striking victims earlier and death rates are soaring

Modern living has led to earlier dementia, says study

In fact the study in question doesn't show that. The paper, published in Surgical Neurological International (see also) is from British researchers Colin Pritchard and Emily Rosenorn-Lanng.



The authors show that the number of deaths attributed to neurological diseases (including dementia) have risen ... Read more »

  • August 2, 2015
  • 09:54 AM
  • 138 views

A Close Look at the Connectivity of a Single Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

In a new paper just out in Neuron, researchers Timothy Laumann and colleagues present an in-depth analysis of the functional connectivity of a single human brain.



The brain in question belongs to neuroscientist Russ Poldrack, and he's one of the authors of the paper. Poldrack was fMRI scanned a total of 84 times over a period of 532 days. The goal of this intense scanning schedule was to provide a detailed analysis of the functional connectivity of an individual brain.

Previous studies... Read more »

Laumann TO, Gordon EM, Adeyemo B, Snyder AZ, Joo SJ, Chen MY, Gilmore AW, McDermott KB, Nelson SM, Dosenbach NU.... (2015) Functional System and Areal Organization of a Highly Sampled Individual Human Brain. Neuron. PMID: 26212711  

  • July 26, 2015
  • 08:40 AM
  • 185 views

"Is Your Brain Really Necessary?", Revisited

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

According to British biochemist Donald R. Forsdyke in a new paper in Biological Theory, the existence of people who seem to be missing most of their brain tissue calls into question some of the "cherished assumptions" of neuroscience.

I'm not so sure.



Forsdyke discusses the disease called hydrocephalus ('water on the brain'). Some people who suffer from this condition as children are cured thanks to prompt treatment. Remarkably, in some cases, these post-hydrocephalics turn out to have... Read more »

  • July 23, 2015
  • 08:37 AM
  • 135 views

Social Priming: Money for Nothing?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Can the thought of money make people more conservative?



The idea that mere reminders of money can influence people's attitudes and behaviors is a major claim within the field of social priming - the study of how our behavior is unconsciously influenced by seemingly innocuous stimuli. However, social priming has been controversial lately with many high profile failures to replicate the reported effects.

Now, psychologists Doug Rohrer, Hal Pashler, and Christine Harris have joined the sk... Read more »

Doug Rohrer, Harold Pashler, & Christine R. Harris. (2015) Do Subtle Reminders of Money Change People’s Political Views?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. info:/

  • July 21, 2015
  • 05:28 PM
  • 125 views

Cognition And Perception Are Separate After All?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Can our beliefs, motivations and emotions influence our visual perception? Are cognition and perception ultimately inseparable?



A lot of recent psychological research says "yes" to the question. For instance, it has been claimed that carrying a heavy backpack makes a hill look - not just feel - steeper. Other researchers say that feeling sad makes things seem darker - not just metaphorically, but literally.

However, according to a new paper by Yale psychologists Chaz Firestone & Br... Read more »

  • July 9, 2015
  • 09:53 AM
  • 176 views

Could Travelling Waves Upset Cognitive Neuroscience?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper published in Cognitive Processes argues that neuroscientists may need to look at brain activity from a new angle, in order to understand neural dynamics.



According to the authors, David Alexander et al. of Leuven in Belgium,
A ubiquitous methodological practice in cognitive neuroscience is to obtain measure of brain activity by analyzing the time course of activity alone, or the spatial topography of activity alone.

This usually results in throwing away most of the data as... Read more »

  • July 6, 2015
  • 08:29 AM
  • 242 views

Scientists Predict A Talking Elephant, Szilamandee

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A talking white elephant called Slizamandee could save the world with his wisdom and "teach us with the deepest voice of history", according to an academic paper published today.

The article appeared in the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. The authors are led by Otto E. Rössler, a biochemist. It's called Is it Ethical to heal a young white Elephant from his physiological Autism? Many thanks to Michelle Dawson for bringing it to my attention.



Rössler et al. start ou... Read more »

Rossler, O., Theis, C., Heiter, J., Fleischer, W., & Student, A. (2015) Is it Ethical to heal a young white Elephant from his physiological Autism?. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2015.06.020  

  • July 3, 2015
  • 09:55 AM
  • 229 views

Evidence for "Unconscious Learning" Questioned

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Can we learn without being aware of what we're learning? Many psychologists say that 'unconscious', or implicit, learning exists.

But in a new paper, London-based psychologists Vadillo, Konstantinidis, and Shanks call the evidence for this into question.



Vadillo et al. focus on one particular example of implicit learning, the contextual cueing paradigm. This involves a series of stimulus patterns, each consisting of a number of "L" shapes and one "T" shape in various orientations. For ... Read more »

  • June 30, 2015
  • 05:14 AM
  • 187 views

Did Parkinson's Disease Influence Hitler?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper from a group of American neurologists makes the case that Hitler suffered from Parkinson's disease for much of his life, and that some of his most fateful decisions were influenced by the neurological disorder.



The article is by Raghav Gupta and colleagues and it appears in World Neurosurgery - a journal with an interesting political history of its own.

Gupta et al. note that
The possibility of Hitler suffering from Parkinson's has long been the subject of debate... [a res... Read more »

  • June 28, 2015
  • 01:34 PM
  • 163 views

Pharma Make The Most of A Negative Result

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A misleading piece of statistical rhetoric has appeared in a paper about an experimental antidepressant treatment. The study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. JAD is a respectable mid-ranked psychiatry journal - yet on this occasion they seem to have dropped the ball badly.



The study examined whether the drug armodafinil (Nuvigil) improved mood in people with bipolar disorder who were in a depressive episode. In a double-blind trial, 462 patients were randomized to treat... Read more »

  • June 16, 2015
  • 04:54 AM
  • 85 views

Data Duplication in 25% of Cancer Biology Papers?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

25% of papers published in cancer biology journals contain signs of 'data duplication', which can be a sign of scientific errors or even misconduct.

That's according to a remarkable paper just published in Science and Engineering Ethics by a Norwegian cancer researcher, Morten P. Oksvold.



Oksvold writes that he randomly selected 40 recent original data papers from three cancer journals, for a total of 120 articles. The journals were chosen to represent one low, one middle, and high imp... Read more »

  • June 8, 2015
  • 06:07 PM
  • 219 views

Your Brain Is Bigger In The Morning

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

The brain shrinks over the course of the day, ending up smaller in the evening - before returning to its full size the next morning. That's according to a neat new study based on an analysis of almost 10,000 MRI scans. It's published today in Neuroimage.



Kunio Nakamura and colleagues of the Montreal Neurological Institute examined 3,269 scans from multiple sclerosis trials and 6,114 from the ADNI Alzheimer's disease project. This makes it the biggest neuroscience study I can think of.

... Read more »

Nakamura K, Brown RA, Narayanan S, Collins DL, Arnold DL, & Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. (2015) Diurnal fluctuations in brain volume: Statistical analyses of MRI from large populations. NeuroImage. PMID: 26049148  

  • June 4, 2015
  • 05:06 AM
  • 298 views

Magnetic Nanoparticles In The Brain and MRI

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper in the unconventional journal Medical Hypotheses raises concerns that MRI brain scans could be harmful.



E. Z. Meilikhov of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology proposes that the powerful static magnetic fields inside an MRI scanner could exert force on tiny particles of the iron-containing mineral magnetite within the brain. These nanoparticles, being magnetic, could move and rotate in the MRI's magnetic field and even be forced inside neurons, he says:
20 years ago... Read more »

  • May 31, 2015
  • 08:39 AM
  • 198 views

The Search For Reward Prediction Errors in the Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper examines how the brain keeps track of positive and negative outcomes: No unified reward prediction error in local field potentials from the human nucleus accumbens



The authors, London-based neuroscientists Max-Philipp Stenner and colleagues, recorded electrical local field potentials (LFP) using electrodes implanted into the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) in six patients. The patients all suffered from epilepsy and the electrodes were being implanted to treat the disease. The author... Read more »

  • May 27, 2015
  • 07:58 AM
  • 255 views

What To Do About A Slow Peer Reviewer?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

An amusing editorial in the neuroscience journal Cortex discusses the excuses scientists use to explain why they didn't submit their peer reviews on time:
Following our nagging for late reviews, we learned that one reviewer had to take their cat to the vet, another was busy buying Christmas presents, one was planning their holidays, an unfortunate one had their office broken into [...] others agreed to review whereas indeed they really intended to withdraw, or were just too busy to reply.

Th... Read more »

  • May 25, 2015
  • 01:40 PM
  • 260 views

Echoborgs: Psychologists Bring You Face To Face With A Chat-bot

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Last year I blogged about the creepy phenomenon of cyranoids. A cyranoid is a person who speaks the words of another person. With the help of a hidden earpiece, a 'source' whispers words into the ear of a 'shadower' , who repeats them. In research published last year, British psychologists Kevin Corti and Alex Gillespie showed that cyranoids are hard to spot: if you were speaking to one, you probably wouldn't know it, even if the source was an adult and the shadower a child, or vice versa.


... Read more »

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