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  • April 2, 2016
  • 11:38 AM
  • 207 views

Statistics: When Confounding Variables Are Out of Control

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Does ice cream cause drownings? Let's think about this statistically. Consider that, in any given city, daily sales of ice cream are, most likely, positively correlated with daily rates of drownings.



Now, no matter how strong this correlation is, it doesn't really mean that ice cream is dangerous. Rather, the association exists because of a 'confound' variable. In this case it's temperature: on sunny days, people tend to eat more ice cream and they also tend to go swimming more often, thu... Read more »

  • April 2, 2016
  • 04:05 AM
  • 182 views

Joint attention interventions for children with autism (mostly) work

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Today (April 2nd) is World Autism Awareness Day. The theme this year is on inclusion and as the United Nations note: "Mainstreaming disability" insofar as recognising that: "Autism and other forms of disability are part of the human experience that contributes to human diversity." A noble cause indeed; not forgetting that for many on the autism spectrum, long-term outcome remains poor (see here) and awareness about human diversity really needs to go hand-in-hand with real action to change prospe........ Read more »

  • April 1, 2016
  • 04:22 AM
  • 175 views

Meta-meta-analysing MTHFR and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"In conclusion, [the] present meta-analysis strongly suggested a significant association of the MTHFR C677T polymorphism with autism."So said the findings reported by Vandana Rai [1] as yet more discussion emerges on the possible role of issues with the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene in relation to at least some autism. The reason I've titled this post as a 'meta-meta-analysis' is because we've previously seen meta-analysis done on this polymorphism (SNP) in rela........ Read more »

  • March 31, 2016
  • 05:14 PM
  • 231 views

Limitless: How long-term memories are erased and how to stop it

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Currently, neuroscientists think our brain has about enough storage space to hold the entire internet. That’s a lot of space, about a petabyte in fact — if we are to believe this estimate. So, what did you read in the news this day 5 years ago? Don’t worry, I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning and my long-term memory doesn’t fair much better. However, vital information about how the brain erases long-term memories has been uncovered by researchers.

... Read more »

  • March 31, 2016
  • 04:20 PM
  • 203 views

The even newer CDC autism prevalence rate

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"For 2012, the combined estimated prevalence of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] among the 11 ADDM [Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring] Network sites was 14.6 per 1,000 (one in 68) children aged 8 years."So said the report by Deborah Christensen and colleagues [1] continuing a research theme as the CDC map the estimated prevalence of autism in the United States over the years (see here and see here). This time around, as last time covering 2010, the figure se........ Read more »

  • March 31, 2016
  • 04:23 AM
  • 193 views

Substance use disorder and autism: a case report

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Minus any sweeping generalisations, I want to bring your attention to the recent paper by Ashy Rengit and colleagues [1] today, continuing a theme of case reports discussing autism co-occurring with a substance use disorder (SUD). A SUD is generally defined as where the use of one or more substances (drugs) with psychoactive properties leads to significant impairment or distress for a person. Although some people might envisage the use of illicit drugs as being the only way to receivin........ Read more »

Rengit AC, McKowen JW, O'Brien J, Howe YJ, & McDougle CJ. (2016) Brief Report: Autism Spectrum Disorder and Substance Use Disorder: A Review and Case Study. Journal of autism and developmental disorders. PMID: 26944591  

  • March 30, 2016
  • 05:11 PM
  • 220 views

What is a good death?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Food for the worms, a dirt nap, kicking the bucket, maybe there are so many euphemisms for death because it is still a taboo in certain cultures. Not so fun fact, my Uncle committed suicide some years back. I’m not going to go into details, but because suicide is looked down on, was his death still considered a “good death”? Trying to qualitatively and quantitatively define a good death, researchers have published a new paper offering help in defining the idea of a good death and have ulti........ Read more »

  • March 30, 2016
  • 09:38 AM
  • 204 views

You'll get over it, you're probably better at managing guilt and shame than you think

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A recurring finding in psychology is that people tend to overestimate the strength of their future emotions, an error known as the "intensity bias". You imagine that failing your driving test will leave you in the depths of despair, for example, but actually when it happens, you don't really feel too bad – the examiner was mean, you were feeling tired, and anyway you've still got your mate's party to look forward to next weekend. In other words, the reason you overestimated the emotional impac........ Read more »

  • March 30, 2016
  • 03:06 AM
  • 195 views

Bisphenol A (BPA) and autism continued

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Descriptive analyses indicated that prenatal exposure to maternal BPA [Bisphenol A] concentrations were related to higher levels of anxiety, depression, aggression, and hyperactivity in children. BPA exposure in childhood was associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, inattention, and conduct problems."That was the conclusion reached in the systematic review by Maede Ejaredar and colleagues [1], that provides one of two studies brought to the blogging ta........ Read more »

Ejaredar M, Lee Y, Roberts DJ, Sauve R, & Dewey D. (2016) Bisphenol A exposure and children's behavior: A systematic review. Journal of exposure science . PMID: 26956939  

Kondolot, M., Ozmert, E., Ascı, A., Erkekoglu, P., Oztop, D., Gumus, H., Kocer-Gumusel, B., & Yurdakok, K. (2016) Plasma Phthalate and Bisphenol A Levels and Oxidant-Antioxidant Status in Autistic Children. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology. DOI: 10.1016/j.etap.2016.03.006  

  • March 29, 2016
  • 12:38 PM
  • 210 views

These Birds Learn to Recognize Humans They Hate

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish





Antarctic seabirds called skuas are so clever that they can recognize individual humans after seeing them only a few times. Some Korean researchers discovered this by messing with the birds' nests and then waiting to get attacked. They're either very brave or have never watched The Birds.

The study took place on Antarctica's King George Island. The animals here didn't evolve around humans. People have only been making appearances on the island since the 1950s or so. Today 10 countr........ Read more »

Lee, W., Han, Y., Lee, S., Jablonski, P., Jung, J., & Kim, J. (2016) Antarctic skuas recognize individual humans. Animal Cognition. DOI: 10.1007/s10071-016-0970-9  

  • March 29, 2016
  • 10:01 AM
  • 217 views

Nostalgia is a Muse

by Jalees Rehman in The Next Regeneration

This view has been challenged by the University of Southampton researchers Constantine Sedikides and Tim Wildschut, who have spent the past decade studying the benefits of nostalgia. Not only do they disavow its disease status, they have conducted numerous studies which suggest that nostalgia can make us more creative, open-minded and charitable. The definition of nostalgia used by Sedikides and Wildschut as a "sentimental longing for one's past" is based on the contemporary usage........ Read more »

  • March 29, 2016
  • 03:44 AM
  • 149 views

Mind wide open – brain activity reveals motives behind people’s altruism

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Sofia DelenivWe often want to know what’s driving other people’s actions. Does the politician who visited a refugee camp on the eve of elections truly care for the poverty-stricken? In reality of course, our mind reading skills are pretty limited and something as complex as an apparent act of altruism can disguise a huge diversity of motives. Most of the time, these motives remain entirely private to the individual – a driving force in a black box.For a new paper publ........ Read more »

Hein G, Morishima Y, Leiberg S, Sul S, & Fehr E. (2016) The brain's functional network architecture reveals human motives. Science (New York, N.Y.), 351(6277), 1074-8. PMID: 26941317  

  • March 29, 2016
  • 02:54 AM
  • 161 views

On the use of risperidone and young children with autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Without trying to scaremonger, it is already well known that certain anti-psychotics potentially indicated for some of the more 'challenging behaviours' associated with conditions like autism for example, carry their own important side-effects. Risperidone, one of the more commonly used medicines, has quite an extensive list of possible side-effects, some of which have been previously mentioned on this blog (see here). Increased appetite and weight gain are some of the more commonly observed sid........ Read more »

Scahill, L., Jeon, S., Boorin, S., McDougle, C., Aman, M., Dziura, J., McCracken, J., Caprio, S., Arnold, L., Nicol, G.... (2016) Weight Gain and Metabolic Consequences of Risperidone in Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child . DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.02.016  

  • March 28, 2016
  • 07:02 AM
  • 169 views

Inner Reading Voices: “Mine sometimes yell at me…” 

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

When doing pretrial research we have occasionally had mock jurors show up who were inebriated or high (yes, even at 7:45am), hostile or disruptive, confused more than the average person or obviously hearing voices or responding to companions no one else could see. Yes. Occasionally people with obviously serious psychiatric disorders make it through the […]

Related posts:
Narcissists and Pronouns: “I”, “me”, “mine” 
What’s that book you’re reading as you wait to be impane........ Read more »

  • March 28, 2016
  • 04:31 AM
  • 187 views

The genetics of self-injurious behaviour accompanying autism? Not quite...

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'd like to start by making one thing abundantly clear about today's post: I am not insinuating that self-injurious behaviour (SIB) accompanying autism is solely under genetic (or epigenetic) control.As I've discussed before on this blog, there are potentially many, many reasons why SIB under the umbrella of the so-called 'challenging behaviours' occurs (see here). As and when it does happen, the onus is on those significant others to turn detective before anyone immediately reaches for somethin........ Read more »

Shirley, M., Frelin, L., López, J., Jedlicka, A., Dziedzic, A., Frank-Crawford, M., Silverman, W., Hagopian, L., & Pevsner, J. (2016) Copy Number Variants Associated with 14 Cases of Self-Injurious Behavior. PLOS ONE, 11(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149646  

  • March 27, 2016
  • 10:24 AM
  • 192 views

Responses to Typos and Personality: "Grammar Nazis" Confirmed?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Do you haet typos? If you spot a grammo (a grammatical error), does your blood boil?

Some people are more offended by these kinds of linguistic errors than others, but why? Ann Arbor psychologists Julie E. Boland and Robin Queen examine this in a new PLOS ONE paper called If You’re House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages



The authors recruited 83 volunteers (on MTurk) and asked them to imagine that they'd placed an... Read more »

  • March 26, 2016
  • 04:58 AM
  • 206 views

The 'disrupted connectivity hypothesis of autism': where next?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

'The disrupted connectivity hypothesis of autism spectrum disorders: Time for the next phase in research' went the title of the paper by Roma Vasa and colleagues [1].Disrupted connectivity by the way, refers to the idea that "deficiencies in the way the brain coordinates and synchronizes activity amongst different regions may account for the clinical symptoms of ASD [autism spectrum disorders]." Picture if you will, the brain as a serious of telephone wires all connecting different parts of........ Read more »

  • March 25, 2016
  • 06:51 PM
  • 284 views

Mental illness, that’s a funny term isn’t it?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

In today’s lexicon, the term mental illness is used pretty widely. It can be used to describe someone suffering from depression, to PTSD, to even someone suicidal. In fact, today it is sort of a catch all term for anyone who is involved in a mass shooting here in the US. We are getting off […]... Read more »

Elkington, K., Teplin, L., Abram, K., Jakubowski, J., Dulcan, M., & Welty, L. (2015) Psychiatric Disorders and Violence: A Study of Delinquent Youth After Detention. Journal of the American Academy of Child , 54(4), 302-31200000. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2015.01.002  

Su, J., Chen, J., Lippold, K., Monavarfeshani, A., Carrillo, G., Jenkins, R., & Fox, M. (2016) Collagen-derived matricryptins promote inhibitory nerve terminal formation in the developing neocortex. The Journal of Cell Biology, 212(6), 721-736. DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201509085  

Jacobs, R., Barba, A., Gowins, J., Klumpp, H., Jenkins, L., Mickey, B., Ajilore, O., Peciña, M., Sikora, M., Ryan, K.... (2016) Decoupling of the amygdala to other salience network regions in adolescent-onset recurrent major depressive disorder. Psychological Medicine, 1-13. DOI: 10.1017/S0033291715002615  

  • March 25, 2016
  • 05:13 AM
  • 229 views

Multiple 'depressions' and multiple trajectories? Sounds very familiar.

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm a fan of the idea that the categorical labelling system currently used in psychiatric and psychological circles probably isn't fit for purpose these days. Y'know, the idea that compartmentalising people into diagnostic boxes with an overarching title whilst useful for general identity and statistical classification, does little to inform about individual experiences or the important cross-over in presentation between and across different labels. Don't even get me started on how the use of su........ Read more »

  • March 24, 2016
  • 07:23 AM
  • 257 views

Distrust of atheists is "deeply and culturally ingrained" even among atheists

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Just as people throughout history have been subject to prejudice and persecution because of their religious beliefs, recent evidence suggests that atheists today are discriminated against because of their lack of faith. For instance, in a 2012 study, nearly one in two atheists and agnostics reported having experienced discrimination at work, in the family and elsewhere. Another US study that asked respondents to imagine their children marrying people from different social groups found that parti........ Read more »

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