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Neuroskeptic
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  • December 28, 2010
  • 06:00 AM
  • 1,116 views

When Is A Placebo Not A Placebo?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Irving Kirsch, best known for that 2008 meta-analysis allegedly showing that "Prozac doesn't work", has hit the headlines again.This time it's a paper claiming that something does work. Actually Kirsch is only a minor author on the paper by Kaptchuck et al: Placebos without Deception.In essence, they asked whether a placebo treatment - a dummy pill with no active ingredients - works even if you know that it's a placebo. Conventional wisdom would say no, because the placebo effect is driven by th........ Read more »

Kaptchuk, T., Friedlander, E., Kelley, J., Sanchez, M., Kokkotou, E., Singer, J., Kowalczykowski, M., Miller, F., Kirsch, I., & Lembo, A. (2010) Placebos without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. PLoS ONE, 5(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015591  

  • August 7, 2009
  • 06:33 AM
  • 1,115 views

Science, Journalism, and Bug Spray

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Watch out! The BBC report that - Deet bug repellent 'toxic worry' While The Telegraph are even more concerned -Insect repellent Deet is bad for your nerves, claim scientists This is in reference to a new paper about the widely-used insect repellent DEET. The BBC, as usual, performed slightly better than the Telegraph here. They included quotes from two experts making it clear that the research in question was preliminary and in no way proves that DEET is dangerous to humans. But the........ Read more »

Corbel, V., Stankiewicz, M., Pennetier, C., Fournier, D., Stojan, J., Girard, E., Dimitrov, M., Molgo, J., Hougard, J., & Lapied, B. (2009) Evidence for inhibition of cholinesterases in insect and mammalian nervous systems by the insect repellent deet. BMC Biology, 7(1), 47. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-7-47  

  • May 15, 2010
  • 05:40 PM
  • 1,114 views

Do It Like You Dopamine It

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic readers will know that I'm a big fan of theories. Rather than just poking around (or scanning) the brain under different conditions and seeing what happens, it's always better to have a testable hypothesis.I just found a 2007 paper by Israeli computational neuroscientists Niv et al that puts forward a very interesting theory about dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, and dopamine cells are known to fire in phasic bursts - short volleys of spikes over millisecond timescales - in........ Read more »

  • July 3, 2011
  • 04:03 AM
  • 1,114 views

The NeuROFLscience of Jokes

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience investigates the neural basis of humour: Why Clowns Taste Funny.The authors note that some things are funny because of ambiguous words. For example:Q: Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?A: Because they taste funny!Previous studies, apparently, have shown that these kinds of jokes lead to activation in the lIFG (left inferior frontal gyrus), although it's also involved in processing ambiguity that's not funny, and indeed, language in general.In this study ........ Read more »

Bekinschtein TA, Davis MH, Rodd JM, & Owen AM. (2011) Why Clowns Taste Funny: The Relationship between Humor and Semantic Ambiguity. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31(26), 9665-71. PMID: 21715632  

  • August 2, 2011
  • 04:21 AM
  • 1,114 views

The 30something Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Brain maturation continues for longer than previously thought - well up until age 30. That's according to two papers just out, which may be comforting for those lamenting the fact that they're nearing the big Three Oh.This challenges the widespread view that maturation is essentially complete by the end of adolescence, in the early to mid 20s.Petanjek et al show that the number of dendritic spines in the prefrontal cortex increases during childhood and then rapidly falls during puberty - which p........ Read more »

Lebel C, & Beaulieu C. (2011) Longitudinal development of human brain wiring continues from childhood into adulthood. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31(30), 10937-47. PMID: 21795544  

Petanjek, Z., Judas, M., Simic, G., Rasin, M., Uylings, H., Rakic, P., & Kostovic, I. (2011) Extraordinary neoteny of synaptic spines in the human prefrontal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1105108108  

  • October 8, 2009
  • 03:18 PM
  • 1,113 views

A Vaccine For White Line Fever?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A study claims that it's possible to immunize against cocaine: Cocaine Vaccine for the Treatment of Cocaine Dependence in Methadone-Maintained Patients. But does it work? And will it be useful?The idea of an anti-drug vaccine is not new; as DrugMonkey explains in his post on this paper, monkeys were being given experimental anti-morphine vaccines as long ago as the 1970s. This one has been under development for years, but this is the first randomized controlled trial to investigate whether it he........ Read more »

  • October 26, 2009
  • 04:24 PM
  • 1,113 views

Barack Obama Boosts Testosterone

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

But only if you voted for him, and only if you're a man. That's according to a PLoS One paper called Dominance, Politics, and Physiology.It's already known that in males, winning competitions - achieving "dominance" - causes a rapid rise in testosterone release, whilst losing does the opposite. That's true in humans, as well as in other mammals. The authors wondered whether the same thing happens when men "win" vicariously - i.e. when someone we identify with triumphs.What better way of testing........ Read more »

  • August 17, 2009
  • 10:09 AM
  • 1,110 views

Schizophrenia: The Mystery of the Missing Genes

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

It's a cliché, but it's true - "schizophrenia genes" are the Holy Grail of modern psychiatry.Were they to be discovered, such genes would provide clues towards a better understanding of the biology of the disease, and that could lead directly to the development of better medications. It might also allow "genetic counselling" for parents concerned about their children's risk of schizophrenia.Perhaps most importantly for psychiatrists, the definitive identification of genes for a mental illness w........ Read more »

  • April 7, 2010
  • 08:48 AM
  • 1,106 views

Why Do We Dream?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A few months ago, I asked Why Do We Sleep?That post was about sleep researcher Jerry Siegel, who argues that sleep evolved as a state of "adaptive inactivity". According to this idea, animals sleep because otherwise we'd always be active, and constant activity is a waste of energy. Sleeping for a proportion of the time conserves calories, and also keeps us safe from nocturnal predators etc.Siegel's theory in what we might call minimalist. That's in contrast to other hypotheses which claim that s........ Read more »

  • December 14, 2009
  • 09:08 AM
  • 1,105 views

In the Brain, Acidity Means Anxiety

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

According to Mormon author and fruit grower "Dr" Robert O. Young, pretty much all diseases are caused by our bodies being too acidic. By adopting an "alkaline lifestyle" to raise your internal pH (lower pH being more acidic), you'll find that
if you maintain the saliva and the urine pH, ideally at 7.2 or above, you will never get sick. That’s right you will NEVER get sick!
Wow. Important components of the alkaline lifestyle include eating plenty of the right sort of fruits and vegetables, id........ Read more »

Ziemann, A., Allen, J., Dahdaleh, N., Drebot, I., Coryell, M., Wunsch, A., Lynch, C., Faraci, F., Howard III, M., & Welsh, M. (2009) The Amygdala Is a Chemosensor that Detects Carbon Dioxide and Acidosis to Elicit Fear Behavior. Cell, 139(5), 1012-1021. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.10.029  

  • August 4, 2011
  • 04:27 AM
  • 1,105 views

Brain-Modifying Drugs

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

What if there was a drug that didn't just affect the levels of chemicals in your brain, it turned off genes in your brain? That possibility - either exciting or sinister depending on how you look at it - could be remarkably close, according to a report just out from a Spanish group.The authors took an antidepressant, sertraline, and chemically welded it to a small interfering RNA (siRNA). A siRNA is kind of like a pair of genetic handcuffs. It selectively blocks the expression of a particular ge........ Read more »

Bortolozzi, A., Castañé, A., Semakova, J., Santana, N., Alvarado, G., Cortés, R., Ferrés-Coy, A., Fernández, G., Carmona, M., Toth, M.... (2011) Selective siRNA-mediated suppression of 5-HT1A autoreceptors evokes strong anti-depressant-like effects. Molecular Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2011.92  

  • April 7, 2013
  • 05:45 AM
  • 1,105 views

The Brain, Speaking In Tongues?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Glossolalia – ‘speaking in tongues‘ – is a practice best known in association with ‘Charismatic’ branches of Christianity. Practitioners, often as part of religious services, produce streams of speech which correspond to no known language. But could glossolalia sometimes be associated with a brain abnormality? Here’s an interesting case report: Temporal lobe discharges and glossolalia [...]... Read more »

Reeves, R., Kose, S., & Abubakr, A. (2013) Temporal lobe discharges and glossolalia. Neurocase, 1-5. DOI: 10.1080/13554794.2013.770874  

  • January 22, 2011
  • 12:46 PM
  • 1,104 views

When "Healthy Brains" Aren't

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's a lot of talk, much of it rather speculative, about "neuroethics" nowadays.But there's one all too real ethical dilemma, a direct consequence of modern neuroscience, that gets very little attention. This is the problem of incidental findings on MRI scans.An "incidental finding" is when you scan someone's brain for research purposes, and, unexpectedly, notice that something looks wrong with it. This is surprisingly common: estimates range from 2–8% of the general population. It will hap........ Read more »

Cramer SC, Wu J, Hanson JA, Nouri S, Karnani D, Chuang TM, & Le V. (2011) A system for addressing incidental findings in neuroimaging research. NeuroImage. PMID: 21224007  

  • April 3, 2014
  • 03:26 PM
  • 1,102 views

Are The Mafia Psychopaths?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

The view that the Mafia is an organization of especially ruthless psychopaths is wrong – in fact, members of ‘Cosa Nostra’ have lower psychopathic traits than other criminals. That’s according to a new study from Italian researchers Schimmenti and colleagues, who, appropriately enough, are based in Sicily, the Mafia’s birthplace. Schimmenti et al went to […]The post Are The Mafia Psychopaths? appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Schimmenti, A., Caprì, C., La Barbera, D., & Caretti, V. (2014) Mafia and psychopathy. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health. DOI: 10.1002/cbm.1902  

  • June 14, 2010
  • 06:39 AM
  • 1,098 views

The Face of a Mouse in Pain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Have you ever wanted to know whether a mouse is in pain?Of course you have. And now you can, thanks to Langford et al's paper Coding of facial expressions of pain in the laboratory mouse.It turns out that mice, just like people, display a distinctive "Ouch!" facial expression when they're suffering acute pain. It consists of narrowing of the eyes, bulging nose and cheeks, ears pulled back, and whiskers either pulled back or forwards.With the help of a high-definition video camera and a little tr........ Read more »

Langford, D., Bailey, A., Chanda, M., Clarke, S., Drummond, T., Echols, S., Glick, S., Ingrao, J., Klassen-Ross, T., LaCroix-Fralish, M.... (2010) Coding of facial expressions of pain in the laboratory mouse. Nature Methods, 7(6), 447-449. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1455  

  • July 22, 2011
  • 11:54 AM
  • 1,094 views

New Antidepressant - Old Tricks

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

The past decade has been a bad one for antidepressant manufacturers. Quite apart from all the bad press these drugs have been getting lately, there's been a remarkable lack of new antidepressants making it to the market. The only really novel drug to hit the shelves since 2000 has been agomelatine. There were a couple of others that were just minor variants on old molecules, but that's it.This makes "Lu AA21004" rather special. It's a new antidepressant currently in development and by all acco........ Read more »

Alvarez E, Perez V, Dragheim M, Loft H, & Artigas F. (2011) A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, active reference study of Lu AA21004 in patients with major depressive disorder. The international journal of neuropsychopharmacology / official scientific journal of the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum (CINP), 1-12. PMID: 21767441  

  • March 31, 2010
  • 09:18 AM
  • 1,091 views

Predicting Psychosis

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

"Prevention is better than cure", so they say. And in most branches of medicine, preventing diseases, or detecting early signs and treating them pre-emptively before the symptoms appear, is an important art.Not in psychiatry. At least not yet. But the prospect of predicting the onset of psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia, and of "early intervention" to try to prevent them, is a hot topic at the moment.Schizophrenia and similar illnesses usually begin with a period of months or years, general........ Read more »

Ruhrmann, S., Schultze-Lutter, F., Salokangas, R., Heinimaa, M., Linszen, D., Dingemans, P., Birchwood, M., Patterson, P., Juckel, G., Heinz, A.... (2010) Prediction of Psychosis in Adolescents and Young Adults at High Risk: Results From the Prospective European Prediction of Psychosis Study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(3), 241-251. DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.206  

  • January 22, 2010
  • 06:32 PM
  • 1,089 views

Brain Scanning Software Showdown

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

You've just finished doing some research using fMRI to measure brain activity. You designed the study, recruited the volunteers, and did all the scans. Phew. Is that it? Can you publish the findings yet?Unfortunately, no. You still need to do the analysis, and this is often the most trickiest stage. The raw data produced during an fMRI experiment are meaningless - in most cases, each scan will give you a few hundred almost-identical grey pictures of the person's brain. Making sense of them requi........ Read more »

Fusar-Poli, P., Bhattacharyya, S., Allen, P., Crippa, J., Borgwardt, S., Martin-Santos, R., Seal, M., O’Carroll, C., Atakan, Z., & Zuardi, A. (2010) Effect of image analysis software on neurofunctional activation during processing of emotional human faces. Journal of Clinical Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1016/j.jocn.2009.06.027  

  • March 2, 2010
  • 02:52 PM
  • 1,085 views

Is Your Brain A Communist?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Capitalists beware. No less a journal than Nature has just published a paper proving conclusively that the human brain is a Communist, and that it's plotting the overthrow of the bourgeois order and its replacement by the revolutionary Dictatorship of the Proletariat even as we speak.Kind of. The article, Neural evidence for inequality-averse social preferences, doesn't mention the C word, but it does claim to have found evidence that people's brains display more egalitarianism than people thems........ Read more »

Tricomi E, Rangel A, Camerer CF, & O'Doherty JP. (2010) Neural evidence for inequality-averse social preferences. Nature, 463(7284), 1089-91. PMID: 20182511  

  • November 2, 2009
  • 12:52 PM
  • 1,083 views

Real vs Placebo Coffee

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Coffee contains caffeine, and as everyone knows, caffeine is a stimulant. We all know how a good cup of coffee wakes you up, makes you more alert, and helps you concentrate - thanks to caffeine.Or does it? Are the benefits of coffee really due to the caffeine, or are there placebo effects at work? Numerous experiments have tried to answer this question, but a paper published today goes into more detail than most. (It caught my eye just as I was taking my first sip this morning, so I had to blog ........ Read more »

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