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  • February 14, 2011
  • 06:00 AM

Article Review: Generational differences in academic EM

by Michelle Lin in Academic Life In Emergency Medicine

Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus.By learning about our differences, we can learn to appreciate and better communicate with those who are different from us.The same falls true for working with residents and faculty from different "generations", as defined as traditionalists, baby boomers, generation Xers, and millennials.This literature review and consensus document is quite extensive and even comes in 2 parts in Academic Emergency Medicine. There is a great summary table of the generational differences in personal, work, and educational characteristics, communication styles, and technology.Think of faculty who fit in these age groups. Do they fit their generational stereotype?Traditionalists (born 1925-1945)Personal characteristics: Loyal, reluctant to change, dedicated, value honor and duty, patrioticWork characteristics: Value hierarchy, loyal "company man",  job securityEducation characteristics: Process orientedCommunication style: FormalTechnology: Tend not to understandBaby Boomers (born 1945-1964) Personal characteristics: Optimistic, desire for personal gratification, highly competitive Work characteristics: Workaholic, competitive, consensus builder, mentor Education characteristics: Learner depends on educator, lecture format, process-oriented Communication style: Diplomatic Technology: Not particularly techno-saavy Generation Xers (born 1964-1980) Personal characteristics: Independent, self-directed, skeptical, resilient, more accepting of diversity, self-reliant Work characteristics: Value work-life balance, comfortable with change, question authority Education characteristics: Independent learners, problem-solvers, desire to learn on the job, outcome-oriented Communication style: Blunt Technology: Interested and facileMillennials (born 1980-1999)Personal characteristics: Optimistic, need for praise, collaborative, global outlook Work characteristics: Team-oriented, follows rules and likes having structured time, career changes Education characteristics: Team-based learning environment, turn to Internet for answers, outcome-oriented Communication style: Polite Technology: Very saavy, technology is a necessity The authors give multiple examples where generational differences come to light but none more so than in mentorship within the academic department.Traditionalists view mentorship as a more formal process, where feedback is necessary only to provide criticism or suggestions for improvement.Baby boomers also view mentorship as a "top down" process. They are ok with infrequent interactions.Generation Xers and Millennials prefer mentorship as a more "peer to peer" process with more frequent interactions. They value the personal relationships and the opportunity to collaborate in creative solutions. Because of their stereotypical distrust of authority, however, they may inadvertently sabotage their relationship with their mentors. Distrust sometimes is misinterpreted as a general lack of respect. To overcome these differences, mentor-mentee pairings should take into consideration gender and shared views about goals, work/life balance, and experiences. Early discussions in a mentorship relationship should discuss generational differences and how each envisions the ideal mentor-mentee relationship to be. The pair should agree upon and adopt a collaborative, shared communication approach with frequent feedback.So much more in this article... Take a read.ReferenceMohr NM, Moreno-Walton L, Mills AM, et al. Generational Influences in Academic Emergency Medicine: Teaching and Learning, Mentoring, and Technology (Part I). Acad Emerg Med. 2011, 18:190-9, 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00985.x.... Read more »

Mohr NM, Moreno-Walton L, Mills AM, et al. (2011) Generational Influences in Academic Emergency Medicine: Teaching and Learning, Mentoring, and Technology (Part I). Academic Emergency Medicine, 190-199. info:/10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00985.x

  • February 11, 2011
  • 06:00 AM

Paucis Verbis: First-Line Treatment for Hypertension

by Michelle Lin in Academic Life In Emergency Medicine

A 50 year-old woman, who presented to the ENT clinic for followup check of a facial fracture, has a blood pressure of 210/100. She is asymptomatic and in no pain. She gets referred immediately to the ED for care.Now you see her in your ED. What next? There is a lot of controversy whether you should treat or not treat asymptomatic hypertension in the ED. The ACEP Clinical Policy says that there is no need to immediately reduce an asymptomatic patient's blood pressure. With "close followup", they can be referred to their primary care physician. With so many patients being uninsured or unable to access their primary care physician on short notice, many emergency physicians like myself are slowly moving towards starting antihypertensive medications for them.If you do decide to start an antihypertensive, which medication do you choose? This Paucis Verbis card is based on a 2009 Cochrane Review, and summarized in American Family Physician in 2010. The blue numbers denote a Risk Ratio (RR) which cross 1, meaning that there is no benefit. The red numbers denote a RR < 1, meaning that there IS a benefit.Bottom line: A low-dose thiazide, such as hydrochlorothiazide 12.5-25 mg po daily, is a safe and effective choice.Feel free to download this card and print on a 4'' x 6'' index card.[MS Word] [PDF]See other Paucis Verbis cards.ReferencesQuynh B. Cochrane for clinicians. First-line treatment for hypertension. Amer Fam Phys. 2010, 81(11), 1333-5.Mensah G, Bakris G. Treatment and Control of High Blood Pressure in Adults. Cardiology Clinics. 2010, 28(4), 609-22. . .... Read more »

Quynh Bui. (2010) Cochrane for clinicians. First-line treatment for hypertension. American Family Physician, 81(11), 1333-1335. info:/

  • February 10, 2011
  • 12:16 PM

Synthetic Biology, or Science Fiction?

by Paige Brown in From The Lab Bench

Craig Venter describes synthetic biology as a process of ‘digitizing’ life, where the possibility for designing new life forms is limited only “by biological reality and our imagination.”... Read more »

Gibson, D., Glass, J., Lartigue, C., Noskov, V., Chuang, R., Algire, M., Benders, G., Montague, M., Ma, L., Moodie, M.... (2010) Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome. Science, 329(5987), 52-56. DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719  

  • February 10, 2011
  • 10:58 AM

Thesising ~ Feeling Stuck?

by Linda Lin in Oz Blog No. 159

(Or worse blocked? *gasp. this sort of fits in with two other posts on thesising I've had) Ever feel like everyday is the same? Like some song stuck on repeat? Or part of the lyrics of some familiar song? Or...... Read more »

  • February 10, 2011
  • 03:21 AM

It’s Criminal – Press Release Misrepresentation

by Ben Good in B Good Science

  You are sat at a table in a dark room, handcuffed. One police officer is shouting in your face, swearing and appears very angry. The other is stood in the corner watching and interjects saying that maybe a cup of tea is in order. Who is more likely to make you talk? Well, new … Read more... Read more »

  • February 10, 2011
  • 12:19 AM

Warming Associated Range Shifts – King Crabs in Antarctica

by John Carroll in Chronicles of Zostera

Well I haven’t done a Research Blogging post in a very long time.  But I was inspired by this news release I read today about crabs spilling onto the Antarctic peninsula with warming waters.   On a recent voyage to Antarctica, marine biologists collected digital images of these deep water predators moving closer to shallow coastal . . . → Read More: Warming Associated Range Shifts – King Crabs in Antarctica... Read more »

Aronson, R., Thatje, S., Clarke, A., Peck, L., Blake, D., Wilga, C., & Seibel, B. (2007) Climate Change and Invasibility of the Antarctic Benthos. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 38(1), 129-154. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.38.091206.095525  

Aronson RB, Moody RM, Ivany LC, Blake DB, Werner JE, & Glass A. (2009) Climate change and trophic response of the Antarctic bottom fauna. PloS one, 4(2). PMID: 19194490  

Thatje, S., Anger, K., Calcagno, J., Lovrich, G., Pörtner, H., & Arntz, W. (2005) CHALLENGING THE COLD: CRABS RECONQUER THE ANTARCTIC. Ecology, 86(3), 619-625. DOI: 10.1890/04-0620  

  • February 9, 2011
  • 10:00 AM

Competence, Participation, Opportunity in Science Communication

by Janet Krenn in Talking Winston

“…the main concern of community activities is now increasingly about public participation, rather than public competence [of science].”

A recent study in Public Understanding of Science reveals that individuals that report “high” interest in science and technology make up a majority of the members of the general public who participate in science/policy decision making. Yet some that are very interested actually may lack a basic science competence, and what good is any discussion when one group only knows or understands some of the facts? 
The Study
In the study, “Participation and Competence as Joint Components in a Cross-National Analysis of Scientific Citizenship,” authors Mejlgaard and Stares investigate a method for uniting two disparate approaches to the public-science relationship: developing scientific competence and having individuals participate in the science/policy process. By developing methods for evaluating the two together, communicators and theorists could move toward cultivating and measuring a Super Citizen, fit to “feed scientific concerns into the decision making process.” (The authors are the theorists that want to measure; I am the communicator that wants to cultivate.)
To reach their goal, the authors use a survey of more than 30,000 Europeans, but the sample has some major restrictions. For starters, the survey used was not tailored for this study, and so although the respondent pool is large, only a few questions address participation and 13 address competence. Of the three questions the authors use to evaluate participation, two look at participation between citizens, such as reading and discussing articles, but only one question evaluates participation that could more likely affect decisions, attending public meetings.
Using these limited items, the authors associate competence with interest and knowledge and consider participation as the sum peer-to-peer discussion (what they term horizontal participation) and attendance at public meetings (vertical participation). Then, they propose a model that plots different combinations of interest and knowledge along a diagram of participation, broken down into three sections: horizontal & vertical participation, horizontal participation only, and no participation. Those with high interest, regardless of knowledge, represent the only groups in the horizontal & vertical participation portion of the diagram. Those with moderate interest paired with high knowledge and those with low interest paired with higher knowledge fall in the horizontal participation only section. Those with either moderate or low interest paired with low knowledge fall under the non-participant category.
As with any study, the authors’ see merit in their approach and suggest further research. As with any interesting study, the reader tends to agree.
The Science Communication Opportunity and Challenge
As I suggested earlier, I have different goals when looking at this study than did the authors in conducting it. I’m interested in the application of scientific communication, and I think the Mejlgaard and Stares study reveals an opportunity for improving the quality of scientific discussion and participation in the short-term: Target competence building to those who are already highly interested in science and, according to this study, much more likely to participate in horizontal (peer-to-peer) and vertical (peer-to-policymaker) discussions.
Mejlgaard and Stares’ analysis points out that most of those that identify themselves as “very interested” in new scientific discoveries, consider themselves “moderately informed,” regardless of their actual knowledge level. If it could be assumed that those who are “very interested” in science while doubting their knowledge would be interested in receiving communication, targeting this group regardless of actual competency level could at least improve competency for those already eager to participate in scientific discussion and policy.
Of course, this doesn’t do much to improve science participation among the populous at large. (I side with the overall goal of scientific citizenship, especially because a democratic society needs to include the input of more than just a small group of participants.) Yet there could be several benefits to starting with this very interested group. Perhaps, citizen-to-policymakers discussions would be more likely based on accurate information. Maybe this group will help disseminate the correct information to others through their peer-to-peer discussions. By improving the knowledge base of the already active and interested, you could extend the reach of your efforts.
I admit that none of this is incredibly profound. Scientists do the majority of their public speaking when invited to society meetings where these very interested people congregate. I think the Mejlgaard and Stares study reaffirms this practice and should inspire scientists to stop waiting for invitations to speak and start reaching out to other groups. 
The challenge then becomes, if interest dictates participation, how do you amp the interest in moderate and low interest groups so that we can eventually reach the goal of a scientific citizenry?

Mejlgaard, N., & Stares, S. (2009). Participation and competence as joint components in a cross-national analysis of scientific citizenship Public Understanding of Science, 19 (5), 545-561 DOI: 10.1177/0963662509335456... Read more »

  • February 9, 2011
  • 02:29 AM

Transitioning from Trainee to Faculty

by Dr Shock in Dr Shock MD PhD

Wish I had know this before when starting in Academia. Really starting your career after all the training you’ve been through, a real challenge. How to start of on the new job.
Important strategies from the medical literature, management practices and hands on experience for “on-boarding”:

Start early, meaning getting toknow your organisation before your start date. [...]

No related posts.... Read more »

  • February 8, 2011
  • 10:16 PM

Much Ado About ADHD-Research: Is there a Misrepresentation of ADHD in Scientific Journals?

by Laika in Laika's Medliblog

The reliability of science is increasingly under fire. We all know that media often gives a distorted picture of scientific findings (i.e. Hot news: Curry, Curcumin, Cancer & cure). But there is also an ever growing number of scientific misreports or even fraud (see bmj editorial announcing retraction of the Wakefield paper about causal relation beteen MMR vaccination [...]... Read more »

  • February 7, 2011
  • 09:25 PM

Choice vs Gender Discrimination in Math-Intensive Science

by Michael Long in Phased

Choice, not direct discrimination, explains the current low representation of women in tenure-track, math-intensive, research-based faculty positions.... Read more »

Stephen J. Ceci, & Wendy M. Williams. (2011) Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/10.1073/pnas.1014871108

  • February 7, 2011
  • 10:54 AM

Adopt Your Scientific Testimony to Jurors' Skeptical Ears

by Persuasion Strategies in Persuasive Litigator

By: Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm - In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama followed the common pattern of giving attention and applause lines to nearly every issue on the national agenda. But there was one issue that received no mention at all: climate change. The absence, noted by many commentators, extended even to areas where it would have been natural to mention the environment. The President's "clean energy" initiative, for example, was touted based on its ability to create jobs and bolster competitiveness, rather than its ability to help the environment. This decision was no doubt the result...... Read more »

William R. L. Anderegga, James W. Prallb, Jacob Haroldc, and Stephen H. Schneidera. (2010) Expert credibility in climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. info:/

  • February 7, 2011
  • 06:42 AM

BMC Research Notes launches a new thematic series on data standardization, sharing and publication

by Tara Cronin in BioMed Central Blog

Following our call for contributions to BMC Research Notes on data standards, sharing and publication, the journal and this initiative have received considerable attention from the research community. Today we launch this series of educational articles, as we publish the first of the numerous manuscripts we have received since September.
This new article by Tony Mathys and Maged Boulos gives an overview of the geospatial resources available for the health research community and public health sector to help them manage and share their data. It joins our previously published Data Note by Andrew Vickers and Angel Cronin and our editorial call for contributions in the series.
The series, supervised by our guest Editors and prominent Open Data advocates Dr Bill Hooker and Prof David Shotton, will grow substantially in 2011 as we are receiving contributions from across biology and medicine, including proteomics, flow cytometry, metabolomics, brain mapping and open bibliography.
We are still keen to receive more contributions, and authors are currently entitled to a full waiver of the article processing charge for accepted articles in this series. Articles should describe a domain-specific data standard and provide an example data set with the article, or a link to data that are permanently hosted elsewhere. The journal is also interested in receiving contributions to the series on broader aspects of scientific data sharing, archiving, and open data. If you would like to contribute a manuscript please refer to our call for contributions and get in touch with BMC Research Notes editorial team by sending us an email.
You can follow our most recent initiatives in Open Data on the BioMed Central blog.
Guillaume Susbielle, PhDIn-house Editor BMC Research Notes

Mathys T, & Kamel Boulos MN (2011). Geospatial resources for supporting data standards, guidance and best practice in health informatics. BMC research notes, 4:19 PMID: 21269487... Read more »

  • February 7, 2011
  • 06:00 AM

Article review: How competent do trainees feel?

by Michelle Lin in Academic Life In Emergency Medicine

It is 2 a.m. You, the resident, have just spoken to your staff/attending, who told you to do a task. You have seen one, but don't feel comfortable doing one independently.Will you tell your staff/attending about how you feel? What if the patient did poorly after that?This study examines the perception of EM trainees of their competence and adverse events and how they feel about reporting them.MethodsAnonymous web-based survey sent to all trainees from 9 EM programs in Canada outside Quebec. 37.3% trainees responded.ResultsCompetence40% trainees felt they had minimal supervision when doing a task that they did not feel safe about. Most 'unsafe' tasks included providing care overnight, admission decision or procedures.When feeling incompetent, a third of trainees will not report this to their staff.Barriers include worry about loss of trust, automony or respect.Adverse events64% trainees felt responsible for contributing to adverse events.Most relate to procedures - chest tubes, central lines, paracentesis.Majority, but not all, reported the most serious events to the staff.Barriers include fear of appearing incompetent and humiliation. How would I change my teaching practiceEnsure trainees feel safe. Maybe do a dry run of central line insertion/break bad news prior.Encourage trainees to voice their discomfort. They are learning, not just working.Discuss adverse events and medical errors with trainees. ReferenceFriedman S, Sowerby R, Guo R, Bandiera G. Perceptions of emergency medicine residents and fellows regarding competence, adverse events and reporting to supervisors: a national survey. CJEM: Canadian journal of emergency medical care. 2010, 12(6), 491-9. PMID: 21073775... Read more »

  • February 6, 2011
  • 09:00 PM

Misrepresentation of ADHD in scientific journals and in the mass media

by Hadas Shema in Information Culture

The scientific community often discusses the misrepresentation of health news by the media. A less discussed subject is misrepresentation of data in the scientific literature. Gonon, Bezard and Boraud used their knowledge about ADHD to find misrepresentations of data in scientific literature and mass media, and found that the misrepresentation problem often begins in the scientific literature. 1. Internal inconsistenciesThe good news is that only 2 out of about 360 papers (Barbaresi et al and Volkow et al) had "obvious discrepancies" between results and their authors' stated conclusions.The bad news is that both papers had been covered by the media, who mostly accepted their conclusions as gospel. Gonon et al say that in the 40 mass media articles they'd read about the Volkow et al. paper, "We have never read a mitigating statement saying that their results are open to the opposite interpretation although the authors explicitly raised thispossibility in their result section." Out of 21 the articles written about Barbaresi et al's paper, only The Guardian's article questioned the conclusions. More than that: out of the 30 times the Volkow et al paper was cited in scientific papers, in 20 the authors quoted its conclusion without pointing out the discrepancies.2. Fact omissionIt goes like this:Summary: A totally controls B!Result section: A controls B if C is present and D isn't.In this part, the authors focused on papers dealing with "the association between alleles of the gene coding for the D4 dopamine receptor (DRD4) and ADHD." According to the authors, previous research has shown that while there is an association between higher frequency of a certain DRD4 allele and ADHD, it only occures in 23% of ADHD patients, as opposed to 17% of the control population. Out of 117 papers about ADHD research done in humans that mentioned the DRD4-ADHD connection, 74 mentioned the association in their summaries, but only 19 of those also mentioned the conferred small risk. All 25 papers which mentioned the association but didn't present data on it had the misrepresentation in their summaries. In review papers, out of 43 summaries, only 6 mentioned that the allele confer only a small risk. The DRD4 gene, ADHD and the mass media - Media outlets have been known for their tendency toward genetic determinism (the "gay gene" for example) and so were quick to adopt the view that ADHD is "genetic". Out of 170 articles between 1996-2009, 168 mentioned that the DRD4 gene is significally associated with ADHD and out of those, 117 didn't mention the small risk and/or presented the raw data. 26 articles mentioned the 1.2 to 1.34 odd ratio but also stated there's a strong connection between the gene and ADHD. The authors' conclusion is that 82% of the articles misrepresented the association, a rate similar to that observed in the scientific literature.3. Extrapolating basic and pre-clinical findings to new therapeutic prospects ("Hi, it worked on mice!")The authors surveyed 101 papers dealing with the mouse brain for 3 common overstatements, and found that 56 overstated their conclusions. 23 even fantasized extrapolated about new therapeutic prospects. Naturally, those 23 papers were published in higher-impact journals and the overstatements made their way to the mass media. Out of 63 mass media articles, only 11 contained migtated comments. Limitations The authors consider their work to be qualitative rather than quantitative, since the selection of papers in the first case was not systematic. In the second and third cases the papers were selected after a systematic search, but the authors only highlighted one aspect of misrepresentation in each case. While the results correlate with misrepresentation in the mass media, there's no way to determine causation. In conclusionWhen I was young and working on a Biology degree, my (great) professor read us an abstract and said something along the lines of "They added that definitive conclusion in the end so the paper will be published in a better journal". While anecdotes aren't data, it does seem that scientists sometimes overstate their results in order to be published in higher rank journals. It's easy to blame the mass media whenever the people put on their tin hats, but the responsibility also falls on scientists to report their findings as accurately as possible, even outside the result section.Gonon, F., Bezard, E., & Boraud, T. (2011). Misrepresentation of Neuroscience Data Might Give Rise to Misleading Conclusions in the Media: The Case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder PLoS ONE, 6 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014618... Read more »

  • February 6, 2011
  • 04:11 PM

It isn’t just students: Medical researchers aren’t citing previous work either

by bjms1002 in the Undergraduate Science Librarian

One of the things that faculty often complain about is that students don’t adequately track down and cite enough relevant material for their term papers and projects.  This problem isn’t confined to undergraduates.  A study in the January 4, 2011 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine by Karen Robinson and Steven Goodman finds that [...]... Read more »

  • February 1, 2011
  • 01:50 AM

Managing the demands of professional life

by Dr Shock in Dr Shock MD PhD

This is the title of an article recently published and written by a psychiatrist and a cardiac surgeon. It’s about an important question not only for physicians but also for other professionals. I found their answer recognizable for most of their concepts.
In short, it’s about five concepts that can be helpful in the work of [...]

No related posts.... Read more »

Dickey, J., & Ungerleider, R. (2007) Managing the demands of professional life. Cardiology in the Young, 17(S2). DOI: 10.1017/S1047951107001242  

  • January 31, 2011
  • 09:35 PM

Role of Scientists and the Media in Propagating ADHD Misconceptions

by Michael Long in Phased

Both scientists and the media are to blame for extreme misrepresentations of ADHD neurobiology in the scientific literature and the lay press.... Read more »

  • January 31, 2011
  • 03:54 PM

How to be a neuroscientist

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

In this post, I will teach you all how to be proper, skeptical neuroscientists. By the end of this post, not only will you be able to spot "neuro nonsense" statements, but you'll also be able to spot nonsense neuroscience questions.I implore my journalist friends to take note of what I say in this post.Much has already been said on the topic of modern neuroimaging masquerading as "new phrenology". A lot of these arguments and conversations are hidden from the lay public, however, so I'm going to expose the dirty neuroscientific underbelly here.(Image source: The Roots - Phrenology)This post was prompted by a question over on Quora: What is the neurological basis of curiosity? Where does curiosity reside in the brain?The question itself is of a type that is commonly asked in cognitive neuroscience: where is <vague behavior> in the brain?But what does it even mean to ask where "curiosity" is in the brain? What would an answer look like?According to the article linked to in the current top answer on Quora:In study after study, scientists have found that the striatum lit up like an inferno of activity when people didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next, when they were on the verge of solving their mystery and hoped to be rewarded—it was more active then, in fact, than when people received their reward and had their curiosity satisfied."So," you may ask, "what's wrong with that answer? That seems reasonable and sound and very sciencey!"You just got brain-mesmerized!I can prove, with one statement, that this answer is wrong (if you're impatient, jump to point 2 at the bottom).I'm not picking on the person who answered the question; they had no way to know. They were just following the discourse of the media narrative about neuroscience findings.So what is wrong with this explanation (he says, finally getting to the damned point)? I'll break both of these points down in detail later.1. The question is phrased in such a way that it presumes that "curiosity" is a singular thing.2. The question presumes that a complex behavior or emotion can be localized to a brain region or regions. There are several philosophical pitfalls packaged into the answer, such as the ontological commitment to the narrative of cognitive neuroscience and the cerebral localization of function.To be clear, what I'm not saying is that behaviors aren't in the brain. What I am saying is that the cerebral localization narrative is too simplistic.Let me break down these points.1. "Is curiosity a singular thing?"When you ask "where is curiosity in the brain" you assume that researchers can somehow isolate curiosity from other emotions and behaviors in a lab and dissect it apart. This is very, very difficult, if not impossible. Neuroimaging (almost always) relies on the notion of cognitive subtraction, which is a way of comparing your behavior or emotion of interest (curiosity) against some baseline state that is not curiosity.Or, as I say in my book chapter from The Mind and the Frontal Lobes:The underlying assumption in these studies is that activity in brain networks alters in a task-dependent manner that becomes evident after averaging many event-related responses and comparing those against a baseline condition. Deviations from this baseline reflect a change in the neuronal processing demands required to perform the task of interest.2. "Can curiosity be localized to one brain region?"No, it cannot. Here's how I know: I've personally worked with people who have a severely damaged striatum. Know what? They still have curiostiy. If the striatum is where curiosity is in the brain, how can someone whose striata are gone still have curiosty? They cannot. Yet they do. Poof. Hypothesis disproved.Imagine asking "where is video located in my computer?" That doesn't make any sense. Your monitor is required to see the video. Your graphics card is required to render the video. The software is required to generate the code for the video. But the "video" isn't located anywhere in the computer.Now there's a subtlety here. It may be that people with damaged striata have curiosity impairments (whatever that means), which would agree with the fMRI study discussed in that link above, but it proves that the striatum is not where curiosity is in the brain. More technically: the striatum may be a critical part of a network of brain regions that support curiosity behaviors, but that is different from saying that the striatum is where curiosity is.Or, as I say in my chapter:...the cognitive subtraction method... provide[s] details of functional localization that can then be tested and corroborated using other methodologies, including lesion studies. The interpretation of these localization results is confounded, however, by a lack of clarity in what is meant for a "function" to be localized. For example, Young and colleagues (2000) noted that for a given function to be localizable that function "must be capable of being considered both structurally and functionally discrete"; a property that the brain is incapable of assuming due to the intricate, large-scale neuronal interconnectivity.Thus, discussing behavioral functions outside of the context of the larger cortical and subcortical networks involved with that function is a poorly posed problem. Therefore, the scientific study of cognition requires detailed neuroanatomical and connectivity information to compliment functional activity findings.God. I was going to end this with some links to news stories talking about neuroscientists finding out where (love/happiness/hate/prejudice/sexytimes/etc.) were located in the brain, but I just gave up. There are some damned many of them.If you're a journalist and you're reading this, please change the way you talk about these results.If you're a student, if you remember nothing else from this post, just remember to ask, "can a person who has a lesion to that brain region not experience that emotion or do that behavior anymore?" If the person still can, then that is not where that behavior is located in the brain. And, in all likelihood, that function can't be localized to any one region at all.Barres, B. (2010). Neuro Nonsense PLoS Biology, 8 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001005Racine E, Bar-Ilan O, & Illes J (2005). fMRI in the public eye. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6 (2), 159-64 PMID: 15685221... Read more »

Barres, B. (2010) Neuro Nonsense. PLoS Biology, 8(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001005  

Racine E, Bar-Ilan O, & Illes J. (2005) fMRI in the public eye. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6(2), 159-64. PMID: 15685221  

Editors. (2004) Brain scam?. Nature Neuroscience, 7(7), 683-683. DOI: 10.1038/nn0704-683  

Weisberg, D., Keil, F., Goodstein, J., Rawson, E., & Gray, J. (2008) The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(3), 470-477. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20040  

Young, M., Hilgetag, C., & Scannell, J. (2000) On imputing function to structure from the behavioural effects of brain lesions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 355(1393), 147-161. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2000.0555  

  • January 31, 2011
  • 06:00 AM

Article Review: Morbidity and Mortality Conferences in EM

by Michelle Lin in Academic Life In Emergency Medicine

Residency training programs are required to have Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) Conferences, as mandated by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). These conferences were originally designed to look at medical errors and unforeseen complications in patient care.Traditionally, Surgery programs focus on medical error and complications in their conferences. In contrast, Internal Medicine programs tend to focus more on cases because of their intrinsic learning value. Error is less the focus in their conferences. What are the practices of EM residency programs?This paper reviews a descriptive survey study of M&M Conferences in U.S. EM residency programs.  The response rate was 72% (89 of 128) for the 29-question survey. If you include all the active EM programs out there (n=135), the response rate was 66%.ResultsBottom Line: M&M conferences are varied in format, content, and timing.Some M&M conferences are alternatively called "Quality Improvement Conference" or "Interesting Case Conference"67% of programs hold M&M monthly, and 15% hold them weekly.33% of M&Ms are attended by nurses and EMS personnel.Some programs focus more on pediatrics, others more on trauma, and others primarily on cases where death or error was the outcome.79% of programs have a protocol in place when a medical error is identified.The authors note that the M&M Conferences are perfect venues to address key ACGME Core Competencies into resident education (especially Practice-Based Learning and Improvement and Systems Based Practice).The next step is to determine the best models for M&M Conferences and to try to standardize them across all programs.(click to open a larger image)For our program at UCSF-SFGH, discussion and suggestions for improvement are framed within the Vanderbilt Healthcare Matrix for improvement health care practices. The matrix includes a 6x6 table with the Institute of Medicine mandates on one axis and the ACGME competencies on the other. Download the Matrix from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) website.ReferenceSeigel T, McGillicuddy D, Barkin A, Rosen C. Morbidity and Mortality Conference in Emergency Medicine The Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2010, 38(4), 507-11. DOI: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.09.018.... Read more »

Seigel, T., McGillicuddy, D., Barkin, A., & Rosen, C. (2010) Morbidity and Mortality Conference in Emergency Medicine. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 38(4), 507-511. DOI: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.09.018  

  • January 30, 2011
  • 09:05 AM

Writerly scientist derided scientist-writer?

by Jeremy Yoder in Denim and Tweed

Following up on the recent discovery that novelist and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov correctly supposed that Polyommatus blue butterflies colonized the New World in stages, Jessica Palmer points out that none other than Stephen Jay Gould dismissed Nabokov's scientific work as not up to the same standards of genius exhibited in his novels. She suggests that Nabokov's work may have been dismissed by his contemporaries because his scientific papers were a little too colorfully written.Roger Vila, one of Pierce's co-authors, suggests that Nabokov's prose style (Wellsian time machine!) did his hypothesis no favors:The literary quality of his scientific writing, Vila says, may have led to his ideas being overlooked. "The way he explained it, using such poetry -- I think this is the reason that it was not taken seriously by scientists," Vila says. "They thought it was not 'hard science,' let's say. I think this is the reason that this hypothesis has been waiting for such a long time for somebody to vindicate it."That's a little harsh toward scientists, but it seems plausible: creativity in scientific writing is rarely rewarded.Hyperlink to quoted source sic.

Palmer's analysis is thoughtful and thorough, and you should read all of it. But she misses what (to me) seems like the best wrinkle in the whole business: Gould, alone of all the scientists, should have been sympathetic to the dangers of writing "too well" in a scientific context.

Stephen Jay Gould, one suspects, never murdered a single darling in a decades-long career of writing for scientific and popular venues. The iconoclastic 1979 paper "The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme" [PDF], coauthored with Richard Lewontin, is a case in point. Gould and Lewontin wanted to make the point that not all traits and behaviors of living species are necessarily adaptive—that is, evolved to perform a function that enhances survival and/or reproductive success. Today it is widely agreed that this point needed making. But Gould's writing undercut the success of his own argument, or at least gave his detractors a toehold for derision.

.flickr-photo { }.flickr-framewide { float: right; text-align: left; margin-left: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; width:100%;}.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; } The Cathedral of San Marco in Venice, its structurally practical arches encrusted with Baroque decoration. A metaphor for Gould's metaphors? Photo by MorBCN.Gould and Lewontin developed their argument with references to architecture and to literature. They compared non-adaptive traits to mosaics decorating the spandrels of the Cathedral of San Marco in Venice. Spandrels being spaces created between arches, anything decorating them is clearly secondary to the architectural decision to build an arch. They also compared "adaptationist" biologists to the character of Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's satire Candide, who claims that "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds."

Pangloss is a fool, and biologists who felt Gould and Lewontin were critiquing them took the obvious inference. One of the most biting responses to "Spandrels" focused much more on the style than the substance of the paper. The author, David Queller, titled it "The spaniels of St. Marx and the Panglossian paradox: A critique of a rhetorical programme" [PDF], and the parody only continues from there.

Queller built an elaborate and unflattering image of Gould and Lewontin as Marxists focused on their political perspective like the dog in the old RCA ads fixated on a grammophone. He even referenced one of Gould's favorite cultural touchstones, the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, to tweak Gould as "the very model of a science intellectual." Queller manages to have his cake and decry it, too—he mocks Gould and Lewontin with overflown metaphors, then backs off to say that such tactics are irresponsible:So, how did I like my test drive in the supercharged rhetoric-mobile? It's certainly been fun ... but it's pretty hard to keep the damned thing on the road. ... my little parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's modern Major General, who knows about everything but matters military, might induce an uninformed reader to conclude that Gould knows about everything but matters biological. But this is exactly the complaint that many biologists would level at Spandrels—that colorful language can mislead as well as inform.So if Gould's reading of Nabokov's scientific achievement was predicated on the opinions of Nabokov's colleagues, who didn't care for elaborate prose in their scientific journals, well, I think that's what my English teachers called irony.


Gould, S., & Lewontin, R. (1979). The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: A critique of the adaptationist programme. Proc. Royal Soc. B, 205 (1161), 581-98 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.1979.0086

Queller, D. (1995). The spaniels of St. Marx and the Panglossian paradox: A critique of a rhetorical programme. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 70 (4), 485-9 DOI: 10.1086/419174

Vila, R., Bell, C., Macniven, R., Goldman-Huertas, B., Ree, R., Marshall, C., Balint, Z., Johnson, K., Benyamini, D., & Pierce, N. (2011). Phylogeny and palaeoecology of Polyommatus blue butterflies show Beringia was a climate-regulated gateway to the New World. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2213... Read more »

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