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  • June 6, 2013
  • 02:26 PM
  • 282 views

Gullibility and pseudoscience, bridged by headlines

by Kausik Datta in In Scientio Veritas

Much have been made in the media recently, of a February 2013 paper, published by a German group in the Annals of Internal Medicine, claiming that acupuncture may help relieve seasonal allergies. Always interested in examining the bold claims of efficacy by various forms of pseudoscientific, wannabe-medicine modalities (such as homeopathy, naturopathy, and so forth), I elected to go to the source; the paper was behind an annoying paywall, but thankfully, I had institutional access, and dove in. The paper... Read more... Read more »

  • June 6, 2013
  • 04:24 AM
  • 584 views

More Money makes you Bad at Work: The Myth of Performance-Related Pay.

by Stuart Farrimond in Dr Stu's Science Blog

Motivated by money? I confess I am. Well ok, not always: there are plenty of things that will trump a stack of greenbacks. However, few of us would object to a kindly benefactor plopping a million quid into our current account. Even for the least materially-minded, it would be difficult to ignore such an offer: … Continue reading »... Read more »

ARIELY, D., GNEEZY, U., LOEWENSTEIN, G., & MAZAR, N. (2009) Large Stakes and Big Mistakes. Review of Economic Studies, 76(2), 451-469. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-937X.2009.00534.x  

  • May 31, 2013
  • 10:40 AM
  • 1,175 views

How Science Education Changes Your Drawing Style

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish




Take a look at these neurons. Ignore the fact that several of the brain cells look like snowflakes and at least one looks like an avocado. Can you pick out the drawings done by experienced, professional neuroscientists? What about the ones made by undergraduate science students?

Researchers at King's College London gave a simple task to 232 people: "Draw a neuron." (Actually, being British, they said "Please draw a neuron.") Some of the subjects were undergraduates in a neurobiology lecture. A small group were experienced neuroscientists who led their own research labs at the college. And a third, in-between group included graduate students and postdocs.

The researchers saw marked differences in how the three groups drew their brain cells. To confirm what they saw, they also pooled the drawings together and asked a new batch of subjects to sort the drawings into categories. These subjects agreed: the drawings clustered into distinct styles. The results are in the journal Science Education.

Did you pick out the pictures in the top row as examples from undergrads? Student sketches had lots of detail and were often labeled. In fact, they mostly resembled this classic textbook drawing from 1899, which the authors describe as the "archetype" of brain cells.






Sketches made by lab leaders are on the bottom row. These highly experienced scientists were more likely to make abstract or stylized drawings. Instead of imitating a textbook picture, they drew from their own personal understanding of what a neuron is. (Or possibly, for the scientist on the bottom left, what a martini glass is.)



The graduate students and postdocs, whose drawings are in the middle row, seemed to fall somewhere in between. They didn't label their drawings like undergrads did, and they didn't include quite so much detail. Their neurons were more likely to bend, and the nuclei of the cells were often hidden—in other words, the cells looked more like they would under a microscope, rather than on a textbook page. But they weren't quite as simplified and abstracted as the lab leaders'.



Lead author David Hay says that the three drawing styles represent "different cultures." Undergraduate students spit out textbook images; scientists in training draw on their own observations; and more experienced scientists make "highly conceptual" drawings that represent their personal judgment.



This matters because "learning to reproduce the textbook images is NOT learning science," Hay says. Even postdoctoral researchers didn't seem to have internalized the concept as much as the lab leaders had. However, Hay thinks there are ways that experienced scientists can help students gain perspective.



One way might be by physically acting out scientific ideas. After Hay and his coauthors had students try a couple such exercises—for example, walking on different paths through a laboratory to mimic how neurons grow—the students produced drawings that were more creative and less like the textbook.

Hay thinks students need to internalize scientific concepts before they can play around with them and make their own hypotheses. "Scientists do not simply know information," he says; "they put information to work to discover something new." Failing that, they can create formidable Pictionary teams.


HAY, D., WILLIAMS, D., STAHL, D., & WINGATE, R. (2013). Using Drawings of the Brain Cell to Exhibit Expertise in Neuroscience: Exploring the Boundaries of Experimental Culture Science Education, 97 (3), 468-491 DOI: 10.1002/sce.21055

Images: Hay et al.

... Read more »

  • May 27, 2013
  • 09:56 AM
  • 430 views

Fixing Science, Not Just Psychology

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Neuroskeptic readers will know that there’s been a lot of concern lately over unreproducible results and false positives in psychology and neuroscience. In response to these worries, there have been growing calls for reform of the way psychology is researched and published. We’ve seen several initiatives promoting replication and, to my mind even more importantly, [...]... Read more »

  • May 26, 2013
  • 06:09 PM
  • 275 views

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Untrue

by Grace Lindsay in Neurdiness

This is a piece about the present state, and potential future, of fraud in scientific research which  I wrote for a Responsible Conduct in Research course taught at Columbia. There seems to be a trend as of late of prominent scientific researchers been outed for fabrications or falsifications in their data. Diederik Stapel’s extravagant web of […]... Read more »

  • May 24, 2013
  • 09:11 PM
  • 826 views

What music do dogs prefer? Bach vs. Snoop Dogg

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hey Julie,I hope you've had a fun week. I saw a new in-press publication with your name on it - "Smelling more or less: Investigating the olfactory experience of the domestic dog" - looks like a really great study, and so timely after my last post about dogs and olfactory enrichment!  Looking forward to reading it (and all those other cool Learning and Motivation articles) over the weekend. So did you do your homework? Did you watch this clip from the Sydney Opera House's Ship Song Project?  I wanted you to watch this clip, and more importantly, LISTEN to it, because it features lots of different musical styles. I don't know about you, but I certainly have a different reaction to the different styles. Some appeal to me more than others. Some I find relaxing, while others make me want to nod my head to keep the beat or even hum along.  I was talking about this clip recently with my friend Mark (from SARC, in my head that always runs together "Mark-from-SARC") and of course we shifted to talking about dogs and music. As you do. That's normal - right?! What kind of music do dogs prefer? As part of my PhD research into kennel enrichment, I looked into this very question. The research in this area has been conducted in two kennel environments.  Headphones on dog = silly (they hear around x4 better than us!) sourceIn the first study, scientists played five different recordings to dogs housed in a shelter kennel:  - a control (nothing) - human speech- classical music- pop music- heavy metal musicto the dogs and recorded the behaviours of the dogs using an ethogram. Then they looked at the differences in the behaviour of the dogs during each condition.  The dogs were significantly more likely to run around barking when the heavy metal music was played; and lie down, apparently resting quietly, when the classical music was on.  There was no difference to their behaviour when the control, human speech or pop music were played. The second study showed similar results, with classical music linked to more sleeping and heavy metal correlating with more body shaking.(source)It's probably worth noting that these changes in behaviour may not reflect dogs' actual PREFERENCE for music. To assess that, we'd need to set up a study design that offered dogs a choice of multiple sound environments. But it certainly suggests that if we want to encourage behaviours associated with relaxation, like lying down, not barking, and sleeping; we should be piping some gentle classical music to the environment our dogs are in. I reckon my dogs quite like Chopin's Nocturnes... Read more »

Kogan Lori R., Schoenfeld-Tacher Regina, & Simon Allen A. (2012) Behavioral effects of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 7(5), 268-275. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2011.11.002  

  • May 23, 2013
  • 07:15 PM
  • 672 views

Molecular visualization tools - Survey and practical tips

by Ragothamanyennamalli in Getting to know Structural Bioinformatics

What would be like to teach a class or describe someone about a protein, without visualizing its structure? Boring is one word that pops in my mind. I vividly remember the professor drawing two blobs touching each other, to describe protein-protein interaction, while explaining it either on the blackboard or on the transparencies of a over-head projector. Those were the days! Tracing back nearly 60 years back, when John Kendrew showed everyone a coiled mess, it has fueled every scientist's imagination to visualize a protein. The coiled mess is aptly titled "Turd of the century"!... Read more »

Craig, P., Michel, L., & Bateman, R. (2013) A survey of educational uses of molecular visualization freeware. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 41(3), 193-205. DOI: 10.1002/bmb.20693  

  • May 23, 2013
  • 03:58 PM
  • 686 views

Cryptococcus gattii Gone Wild on World Tour

by Kausik Datta in In Scientio Veritas

By now you know, dear readers, that Cryptococcus gattii (CG), the deadly fungal pathogen and a native of tropical and subtropical regions of the world, has stealthily charted itself a course of world domination, starting with the Pacific Northwest of North America. I have also alerted you to the possibilities about its transmission - (a) that CG may have spread as a result of human activity, human and avian migration, and other natural means of dispersal; and (b) that slow,... Read more... Read more »

  • May 21, 2013
  • 05:51 PM
  • 451 views

A Machine to Weigh the Soul

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Newly discovered papers have shed light on a fascinating episode in the history of neuroscience: Weighing brain activity with the balance The story of the early Italian neuroscientist Dr Angelo Mosso and his ‘human circulation balance’ is an old one – I remember reading about it as a student, in the introductory bit of a [...]... Read more »

Sandrone S, Bacigaluppi M, Galloni MR, Cappa SF, Moro A, Catani M, Filippi M, Monti MM, Perani D, & Martino G. (2013) Weighing brain activity with the balance: Angelo Mosso's original manuscripts come to light. Brain : a journal of neurology. PMID: 23687118  

  • May 19, 2013
  • 06:33 PM
  • 404 views

Reflecting on Applied Animal Behavior

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Time for reflection (By Wieselblitz)Hi Mia! Love the lavender research! Learning that dogs show different behaviors when exposed to different scents could help us prime environments to be associated with particular dog behaviors and moods (you noted that exposure to peppermint and rosemary are associated with activity and barking while exposure to lavender and chamomile bring out resting). At the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab, we have a new paper coming out soon in Learning and Motivation -- the study included testing the effect of lavender on dogs' food preference. More on that later!Speaking of being in a calm, more restful state, I know 15 people who recently (hopefully) just entered a period of calm. I teach an Applied Animal Behavior class to Anthrozoology Masters students at Canisius College, and the semester just ended. The Anthrozoology program is a unique hybrid Masters program, hybrid in the sense that at the beginning of each semester, students and teachers meet for 4-days of in-person learning at the Canisius campus in Buffalo, NY. I get to meet the awesome students, although Buffalo in January can be incredibly cold with quickly changing weather. I say this even after spending 4+ years in Madison, WI where people deal with the winter like this. So I guess Canisius is a good place for me.(Just a little bike ride)Digression #1: Anthrozoology InternSpeaking of Anthrozoology in the online sector, y’all at the Anthrozoology Research Group are looking for an Intern! Applications due by May 24, 2013. Intern responsibilities and requirements listed here. Digression #2: Hybrid coursesMaybe you are familiar with hybrid degree programs? I first learned about them through one of my mentors, Darcy Luoma, who holds a Masters of Science in Organization Development through Pepperdine University. Darcy is now the Lead instructor for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Professional Life Coaching Certificate, which is a blended-learning certificate program. I follow Darcy on Facebook.I have been finding my way as a teacher in the hybrid / online academic world and enjoying it -- although a helpful, approachable guide is paramount! Leah MacVie, a learning advocate, instructional designer and cupcake connoisseur, is my go-to person at Canisius College. Leah is a bonafide rockstar in helping online teachers create and manage classes. I follow her on Twitter @leahmacvie and her blog.Reflecting on Applied Animal BehaviorApplied Animal Behavior in actionAnyway, hopefully the students in my Applied Animal Behavior class are having some moments of calm and rest since the class ended. We covered A LOT of material this semester. The journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science reminds us that this field can include hundreds of topics, and then some! Broadly speaking, we covered ethology of domestic animals, pain and stress physiology, needs and preference assessment, abnormal behavior, affective states, welfare, naturalness, ethological approaches to human-animal interactions, species management and reintroductions, and assessing and treating behavior problems.As the end of the semester neared, we reflected on our 15 weeks of Applied Animal Behavior. Here some of the class’s big take-ways.* General ReflectionsDon’t jump to conclusionsThis class has expanded my knowledge of animals in captive environments and practices like reintroductions. It gave me a way to look at these situa... Read more »

  • May 18, 2013
  • 02:10 PM
  • 469 views

‘Is ‘cloning’ mad, bad and dangerous?’ – an argument revisited

by Lee Turnpenny in The Mawk Moth Profligacies

Is 'cloning' appropriate terminology for somatic cell nuclear transfer derivation of human embryonic stem cells?... Read more »

Tachibana, M., Amato, P., Sparman, M., Gutierrez, N., Tippner-Hedges, R., Ma, H., Kang, E., Fulati, A., Lee, H., Sritanaudomchai, H.... (2013) Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer. Cell. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.006  

  • May 16, 2013
  • 05:17 PM
  • 589 views

Stealthy emergence of Cryptococcus gattii in North America

by Kausik Datta in In Scientio Veritas

What can the members of multiple animal species (cat, dog, bird, ferret, llama, alpaca, elk, goat, sheep, horse, porpoise) have in common with humans? Deeper philosophical questions aside, all of them have fallen prey to a deadly fungus spreading gradually, but steadily, in western North America (southwest Canada; US states of the Pacific Northwest, PNW) for over a decade.1 Well, what-ho, what-ho Cryptococcus gattii (CG), I believe we have been introduced. The disease, cryptococcosis, generally, affects the lungs first, later... Read more... Read more »

Datta K, Bartlett KH, Baer R, Byrnes E, Galanis E, Heitman J, Hoang L, Leslie MJ, MacDougall L, Magill SS.... (2009) Spread of Cryptococcus gattii into Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Emerging infectious diseases, 15(8), 1185-91. PMID: 19757550  

Marr KA, Datta K, Pirofski LA, & Barnes R. (2012) Cryptococcus gattii infection in healthy hosts: a sentinel for subclinical immunodeficiency?. Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 54(1), 153-4. PMID: 22075791  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2010) Emergence of Cryptococcus gattii-- Pacific Northwest, 2004-2010. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 59(28), 865-8. PMID: 20651641  

Kidd SE, Bach PJ, Hingston AO, Mak S, Chow Y, MacDougall L, Kronstad JW, & Bartlett KH. (2007) Cryptococcus gattii dispersal mechanisms, British Columbia, Canada. Emerging infectious diseases, 13(1), 51-7. PMID: 17370515  

  • May 16, 2013
  • 02:54 PM
  • 392 views

Why not use human material for medical research?

by Professor Gareth Sanger in NC3Rs Blog

Using human tissue in medical research throws up a number of different challenges. In our third 2012 NC3Rs 3Rs Prize post, Professor Gareth Sanger from Queen Mary, University of London, discusses how tissue removed from the stomach and intestine can actually help overcome some of these challenges. Is this a viable alternative to using animals for gastrointestinal research? Professor Sanger’s research suggests it could be.... Read more »

  • May 16, 2013
  • 11:16 AM
  • 629 views

'Vocal mimicry hypothesis' falsified? [Part 2]

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

A few entries ago I uploaded a fragment from a study that discusses an intriguing experiment with three chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) which were trained to tap regularly on a piano keyboard...... Read more »

  • May 15, 2013
  • 09:46 AM
  • 864 views

Male Black Widows Sniff Out Femme Fatales

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

I am thrilled to announce that this month I am joining a new top-notch science blogging team at Scitable, Nature Education’s award-winning science education website! (But don’t worry, friends. I will continue to post here about animal physiology and behavior every Wednesday). Next week, Scitable will be launching eleven new blogs covering topics like neuroscience, genetics, oceanography, physics and more. I will be co-authoring an evolution blog called Accumulating Glitches together with Sedeer el-Showk (the author of the fantastic nature blog Inspiring Science). To celebrate the launch of these new science blogs, many of us are writing guest posts at Student Voices, another Scitable blog. What follows is the start of my guest post:__ A female western black widow contemplates the tastinessof her suitor. Photo by Davefoc at Wikimedia Commons. Sexual reproduction is a costly affair, but the costs are not usually equal for males and females. Among animals, females generally produce larger gametes (eggs are way bigger than sperm), spend more energy gestating or incubating the young before they are born, and spend more effort caring for the young after they are born. It’s no wonder then that across animal species, females are typically more choosy of who they mate with than males are. But what if the tables are turned and sex is more costly for males than it is for females? Such is often the case for black widow spiders, named for the females’ infamous reputation for making a post-coital snack of their mates. In such a situation where every sexual encounter is potentially the last, who would blame males for being more choosy of their mating partners? But are they? To find out, read the rest of the post here! And to find out more, check this out:Johnson, J., Trubl, P., Blackmore, V., & Miles, L. (2011). Male black widows court well-fed females more than starved females: silken cues indicate sexual cannibalism risk Animal Behaviour, 82 (2), 383-390 DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.05.018 ... Read more »

  • May 14, 2013
  • 02:00 AM
  • 446 views

Measuring scientific coverage of @Wikipedia: Fellows of the Wiki Society Index 2013

by Duncan Hull in O'Really?

A quick-and-dirty measure of the scientific coverage of wikipedia is the percentage of these fellows that have a profile on wikipedia at the time of their election to the prestigous Society. Let’s call it the Fellows of the Wiki Society Index (FWSi)...... Read more »

Moy, C., Locke, J., Coppola, B., & McNeil, A. (2010) Improving Science Education and Understanding through Editing Wikipedia. Journal of Chemical Education, 87(11), 1159-1162. DOI: 10.1021/ed100367v  

  • May 14, 2013
  • 01:29 AM
  • 503 views

Evolutionary arms-race won by moths

by Mini Watsa in SurroundScience

It is easy to forget that other organisms also affect the “environment” of a given species.  No one is evolving in a vacuum.  The existence of other species can not only … Continue reading →... Read more »

Moir H. M., Jackson J. C., & Windmill J. F. C. (2013) Extremely high frequency sensitivity in a 'simple' ear. Biology Letters, 9(4), 20130241-20130241. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0241  

  • May 13, 2013
  • 09:45 AM
  • 334 views

A Quantum Version of Google

by Carian Thus in United Academics

A team of computer scientists in Spain applied a quantum PageRank algorithm to a network with 7 webpages. They found that the quantum PageRank sometimes ordered the webpages differently in terms of importance, but averaging the quantum PageRank score over time recovered the classical ordering.... Read more »

Paparo, G., & Martin-Delgado, M. (2012) Google in a Quantum Network. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/srep00444  

  • May 11, 2013
  • 01:42 AM
  • 365 views

How Not to Be Eaten

by Mini Watsa in SurroundScience

In the soft jungle sun, a thick-limbed primate—with heavy fur and a strong grasping tail—is poised for flight.  This is Lagothrix poeppigii, or Poeppigi’s woolly monkey, and it is the … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • May 9, 2013
  • 11:05 PM
  • 667 views

Stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

(source)Hi Julie, WOW!Dogs in clothes.  Corgis in bikinis at the beach. Greyhounds in onesies.  We people do some weird things to our canine friends, no?! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy being dressed up in a padded outfit all day long, so I think I'll pass on sharing that experience with my dogs. As you said, cultural perceptions, ethics and expectations add a whole layer of extra consideration. It's not always easy to work out what dogs want or need. That's why I like science. It helps us work this stuff out.I've been super busy this week - working hard (as always!) and still thinking a lot about dogs living in kennel facilities. So I wanted to pull your head away from dogs dressed as flowers, back to dogs getting the opportunity to smell the flowers.  No, really. Lavender in fact.(source)Dogs should stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.When I talk to people about the body of research that's been conducted in the area of environmental enrichment for dogs housed in kennels, they never fail to be amazed at what has been studied. Or what hasn't. One topic that usually results in a snort, a laugh or a quizzical raised eyebrow is olfactory (smelly) stimulation. Which is kind of weird. Because we know that dogs can smell on a level that's basically in another galaxy compared to our smelling experiences. Research conducted in a rescue shelter kennel in 2005 exposed dogs to five different diffused aromas: - a blank control, or essential oil of- chamomile - lavender - peppermint- rosemary The study showed that olfactory stimulation had a significant effect on behaviour.  Dogs were more likely to rest and less likely to bark when exposed to the smells of lavender and chamomile. Peppermint and rosemary exposure resulted in more active and noisy behaviour. The researchers suggested that the welfare of dogs in shelter kennel environments (and also their attractiveness to potential adopters) could be improved by using this kind of aromatherapy.  What a dog's nose knows.Further research has shown a similar effect of lavender in effecting the behaviour of dogs with travel-induced excitement in cars: they spent more time sitting, resting and less time vocalising when they were exposed to the smell of lavender.Interestingly, human studies show a similar effect of lavender on us: reduced mental stress.So if a dog is in a kennel environment and can't get out to romp in a field of flowers, or chomp them up (as dogs tend to do!), perhaps we can help them out by giving them something... Read more »

Wells Deborah L. (2006) Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 229(6), 964-967. DOI: 10.2460/javma.229.6.964  

MOTOMURA NAOYASU, SAKURAI AKIHIRO, & YOTSUYA YUKIKO. (2001) REDUCTION OF MENTAL STRESS WITH LAVENDER ODORANT. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93(3), 713-718. DOI: 10.2466/pms.2001.93.3.713  

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