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  • December 22, 2012
  • 06:08 AM

When "Mental" Illness Isn't

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

 There's a theory that 'psychiatric diseases' like depression and schizophrenia aren't diseases because they're not diagnosed on the basis of any kind of biological abnormality, but purely on symptoms - unlike 'real' diseases like cancer and AIDS.Now, in my view there's quite a bit of truth in that - but there's also a serious flaw in the argument. Sometimes, disorders diagnosed on the basis of psychiatric symptoms do turn out to have had a clear biological cause. So the original diagnosis ........ Read more »

  • December 18, 2012
  • 06:54 AM

Ketamine: Magic Antidepressant Or Illusion? Revisited

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's a lot of interest in the idea that ketamine provides unparalleled rapid, powerful antidepressant effects, even in people who haven't responded to conventional antidepressants.Earlier this year, I asked:Ketamine - Magic Antidepressant, or Expensive Illusion?There have now been several studies finding dramatic antidepressant effects of ketamine, the "club drug" aka "horse-tranquilizer". Great news? If you believe it. But hold your, er, horses... there's a problem.My concern was that althou........ Read more »

Zarate CA Jr, Mathews D, Ibrahim L, Chaves JF, Marquardt C, Ukoh I, Jolkovsky L, Brutsche NE, Smith MA, & Luckenbaugh DA. (2012) A Randomized Trial of a Low-Trapping Nonselective N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Channel Blocker in Major Depression. Biological psychiatry. PMID: 23206319  

  • December 15, 2012
  • 12:29 PM

Search Trends Reveal The Most Suicidal States

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

US states with more Google searches for suicide-related things actually have a higher suicide rate, according to a study just out.Researchers Gunn and Lester write that, across the 50 US states,The association between suicide rates and the search volume for ‘‘commit suicide’’ was significant and positive[r=0.31, p=0.01]... ‘‘how to suicide’’ was marginally significant and positive [r=0.21, p=0.07]... Finally, ‘‘suicide prevention’’ was significant and positive [r=0.61, p=........ Read more »

  • December 15, 2012
  • 12:26 PM

Neither Drugs Nor Therapy Prevent Psychosis

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Neither medication nor psychotherapy is effective in improving the prognosis for youngsters considered to be at high risk of developing psychosis, according to a major study just published.The idea of identifying and treating young people at risk of becoming psychotic - because of a family history of schizophrenia, or because they're showing some mild symptoms - has become very fashionable lately. But can we really do anything to pre-empt the disorder?In this trial, 115 "ultra-high risk" Austral........ Read more »

McGorry, P., Nelson, B., Phillips, L., Yuen, H., Francey, S., Thampi, A., Berger, G., Amminger, G., Simmons, M., Kelly, D.... (2012) Randomized Controlled Trial of Interventions for Young People at Ultra-High Risk of Psychosis. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. DOI: 10.4088/JCP.12m07785  

  • December 8, 2012
  • 11:17 AM

The Case Of The Missing Parasites

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Collembola or "Springtails" are a common group of bugs - they're technically not insects although much like them - found all over the world.There's no evidence that these critters are parasites for humans - except for one strange scientific report claiming to have found Collembola body parts in skin scrapings from people diagnosed with delusional parasitosis - a psychiatric disorder characterised by the belief that one is infested with parasites.According to said 2004 paper by Altschuler et al, ........ Read more »

  • November 30, 2012
  • 02:54 PM

Did Boys Use To Wear Pink?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's a belief that the colours we associate with the genders - pink for girls and blue for boys - used to be the other way around.About 100 years ago, we're told, boys wore pink clothes, but then during the early 20th century, it flipped over. This is often used as an example of how arbitrary gender stereotypes are.However according to psychologist Marco Del Giudice, the whole "pink-blue reversal" is an 'urban legend'. He argues that there's really only anecdotal evidence for the existence of........ Read more »

  • November 29, 2012
  • 01:31 PM

Ritalin, The Ultimate Crimefighter?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's been lots of interest in the idea that ADHD meds reduce crime rates.No doubt that, even as we speak, worried pundits are writing of how this is a worrying Orwellian scenario and yadda yadda. But what's really going on?The research is from Sweden and published in the New England Journal of Medicine: Medication for Attention Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder and Criminality. The first thing to note is that the study is not about giving medication in order to prevent crime; it was purely loo........ Read more »

Lichtenstein P, Halldner L, Zetterqvist J, Sjölander A, Serlachius E, Fazel S, Långström N, & Larsson H. (2012) Medication for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and criminality. The New England journal of medicine, 367(21), 2006-14. PMID: 23171097  

  • November 27, 2012
  • 01:57 PM

Best. Experiment. Ever.

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Studies have shown that men's testosterone levels increase after sexual stimulation. However, other research shows that merely briefly chatting to a woman also causes testosterone release, making it unclear whether sex, per se, is associated with testosterone changes.So an intrepid band of researchers decided to find out using a unique methodology. Their paper's called Salivary Testosterone Levels in Men at a U.S. Sex Club and it's about... that.They first set the scene: Subjects were recruited ........ Read more »

Escasa, M., Casey, J., & Gray, P. (2010) Salivary Testosterone Levels in Men at a U.S. Sex Club. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(5), 921-926. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-010-9711-3  

  • November 23, 2012
  • 03:53 PM

Are Porn Stars Happier?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Women who appear in porn are happier than other women, enjoy sex more - and have lots more of it. So says a new paper with the pulls-no-punches title of Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods HypothesisResearchers James Griffith and colleagues sampled 177 American adult actresses, and an equal number of other women of the same age, gender and relationship status. The results were pretty clear: the actresses said they started having sex earlier; had far more partners with an av........ Read more »

Griffith JD, Mitchell S, Hart CL, Adams LT, & Gu LL. (2012) Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis. Journal of sex research. PMID: 23167939  

  • November 22, 2012
  • 03:09 PM

The Perils of Sharing Brain Scans

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A fascinating paper by neuroscientists Van Horn and Gazzaniga chronicles their pioneering, but not entirely successful, attempt to get researchers sharing their brain scans: Why share data? Lessons learned from the fMRIDC.It all started in 1999 when, along with some colleagues, they decided that the time was right for data sharing in neuroimaging. They got some public funding, and tried to get various major neuroscience journals to require that anyone publishing an fMRI study should make their d........ Read more »

  • November 19, 2012
  • 04:25 PM

Should You Judge A Book (Woman) By The Cover?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

"Do physically attractive women possess particularly attractive inner attributes?"So ask the authors of a study just out in Psychological Science: Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover, Revisited. Their answer? People do tend to judge (female) books by their covers, but we shouldn't.Psychologists Segal-Caspi and colleagues took 118 female Israeli students and videotaped them walking into a room and reading a weather forecast. Then other students - male and female - judged the 'targets' on attractivene........ Read more »

  • November 16, 2012
  • 04:23 PM

We're Probably Not Getting Dumber

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

There's been loads of interest over the past few days in the idea that humans have been getting stupider for the past few millennia. That's according to Stanford's Gerald R. Crabtree - I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would gue........ Read more »

  • November 14, 2012
  • 11:20 AM

The New "Mood Disorder" That Isn't One

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

The storied history of "Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)", a controversial new child psychiatric disorder proposed for inclusion in the new DSM-5 manual, continues.If DSM-5 is officially published (it's due in 2013), kids will be deemed DMDD if they showsevere recurrent temper outbursts that are grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation.At least three times a week. Would giving that label be helpful?Pittsburg psychiatrists David Axelson and colleagues have ........ Read more »

Axelson D, Findling RL, Fristad MA, Kowatch RA, Youngstrom EA, McCue Horwitz S, Arnold LE, Frazier TW, Ryan N, Demeter C.... (2012) Examining the proposed disruptive mood dysregulation disorder diagnosis in children in the Longitudinal Assessment of Manic Symptoms study. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 73(10), 1342-50. PMID: 23140653  

  • November 12, 2012
  • 04:14 PM

Beware Small Positive Studies

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A Letter in the prestigious American Journal of Psychiatry offers a skeptical response to a paper published there recently.The original article claimed amazing benefits of a safe and cheap brain stimulation technique in treating schizophrenia. But Dutch letter-writers Sommer et al aren't convinced.It's a short piece and worth quoting:We read with interest the article by Brunelin et al. in the July issue, which described the application of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) in the tre........ Read more »

  • November 10, 2012
  • 03:44 AM

Migraines On Twitter

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

People talk about migraines on Twitter more on weekdays than weekends and holidays - and the peak time of day for the horrible headaches is 7 in the morning.The working-day effect on migraines has been reported before - perhaps a reflection of stress or, less charitably, people wanting a day off work... although some people suffer weekend migraines. Of the working week, Tuesdays saw the most migraines, while Fridays were the least bad. About 80% of Twitter migraine mentions came from women - w........ Read more »

  • November 8, 2012
  • 12:40 PM

Blogging's First Academic Paper

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

In an historic achievement, I can announce that I have become (to my knowledge) the first blogger ever to publish in a peer-reviewed academic journal under a blogging pseudonym.Skeptic, N. (2012) The Nine Circles of Scientific Hell Perspectives on Psychological Science 7 (6) 643-644 This is based on a post from two years ago (far and away the most popular post I've ever done). Now as historic achievements go, this is fairly niche, but I do think it's important.Most of the problems with the way s........ Read more »

Neuroskeptic. (2012) The Nine Circles of Scientific Hell. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(6), 643-644. DOI: 10.1177/1745691612459519  

  • November 7, 2012
  • 12:14 PM

The Persistence of "Past-Life" Memories

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Many children spontaneously report memories of 'past lives'. For believers, this is evidence for reincarnation; for others, it's a psychological oddity.But what happens when they grow up?Icelandic psychologists Haraldsson and Abu-Izzedin looked into it. They took 28 adults, members of the Druze community of Lebanon. They'd all been interviewed about past life memories by the famous reincarnationist Professor Ian Stephenson in the 70s, back when they were just 3-9 years old.Did they still 'rememb........ Read more »

  • November 5, 2012
  • 05:31 PM

Exercise And Depression Revisited

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A new study has found little evidence that aerobic exercise helps treat depression, contrary to popular belief.Danish researchers Krogh and colleagues randomly 115 assigned depressed people to one of two exercise programs. One was a strenuous aerobic workout - cycling for 30 minutes, 3 times per week, for 3 months. The other was various stretching exercises.The idea was that stretching was a kind of placebo control group on the grounds that, while it is an intervention, it's not the kind of exer........ Read more »

  • November 2, 2012
  • 07:54 AM

John Bargh's "Transient and Ephemeral" Blogs

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Leading social psychologist and Yale Professor John Bargh has been at the center of a number of controversies lately.Most recently, researcher Brent Donnellan covered a case in which he was unable to replicate one of Bargh's experiments, which prompted Bargh to share his original raw data with him, but on the condition that he never discussed it publicly: What’s the First Rule about John Bargh’s Data? You do not talk about John Bargh’s dataBut a couple of months back, even more ........ Read more »

  • November 1, 2012
  • 01:32 PM

Autism Brain Scans Flawed? You Read It Here First

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

According to a piece in Nature today, a major line of research about autism might be seriously flawed:One of the most popular and widely accepted theories on the cause of autism spectrum disorders attributes the condition to disrupted connectivity between different regions of the brain.This 'connectivity hypothesis' claims that the social and cognitive abnormalities in people with autism can be explained by a dearth of connections between distant regions of the brain. Some flavours of this t........ Read more »

Ben Deen, & Kevin Pelphrey. (2012) Perspective: Brain scans need a rethink. Nature. info:/

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