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  • May 26, 2017
  • 12:14 PM
  • 25 views

How to find articles in open access – tips from my favorite nerd

by SciELO in SciELO in Perspective

Scholarly communication available online, whether in journals or repositories, adds up to millions, and this figure grows every year. What browser efficient tools are available to researchers, librarians, students, and the like to find the open-access versions of the articles that interest them? … Read More →... Read more »

  • May 26, 2017
  • 11:42 AM
  • 22 views

Adolescent Brain Development

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Functional magnetic resonance imaging yields improvement in our understanding of brain development.A recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania is a good example. This study examined the relationship between brain connectivity and the development of cognitive executive function.The researchers imaged a group of 882 subjects between the ages of 8 and 22.Brain connectivity patterns were compared with a neurocognitive assessment of executive function. Executive function increases with age throughout adolescence and early adulthood.The key findings from the study included the following items:Brain network modules become increasingly segregated with adolescent brain developmentThis segregation increases brain network efficiencyThis process of development mediates the improvement in brain executive functionThe authors note in their discussion that"These findings may be relevant for understanding how individual differences in brain development associate with risk-taking behaviors, which are linked to failures of executive function, and are a major source of morbidity and mortality in adolescence."This is an important study the advances our understanding of brain changes during adolescence. Interested readers can access the free full manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Follow me by clicking:TwitterInstagramFacebookImage of brain corpus callosum is a screen shot from my iPad of the app 3D Brain.Graham L. Baum, Rastko Ciric, David R. Roalf, Richard F. Betzel, Tyler M. Moore, Russel T. Shinohara, Ari E. Kahn, Megan Quarmley, Philip A. Cook, Mark A. Elliot, Kosha Ruparel, Raquel E. Gur, Ruben C. Gur, Danielle S. Bassett, & Theodore D. Satterthwaite (2016). Modular Segregation of Structural Brain Networks Supports the Development of Executive Function in Youth Current Biology arXiv: 1608.03619v1... Read more »

Graham L. Baum, Rastko Ciric, David R. Roalf, Richard F. Betzel, Tyler M. Moore, Russel T. Shinohara, Ari E. Kahn, Megan Quarmley, Philip A. Cook, Mark A. Elliot.... (2016) Modular Segregation of Structural Brain Networks Supports the Development of Executive Function in Youth. Current Biology. arXiv: 1608.03619v1

  • May 26, 2017
  • 11:34 AM
  • 31 views

The Ugliness Penalty: Does It Literally Pay to Be Pretty?

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

There are economic studies that show that attractive people earn more money and, conversely, unattractive earn less money. I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard something along those lines before, but I had no idea they were called the “beauty premium” and the “ugliness penalty.” How wonderful and sad at the same time. But while these seem like pretty commonplace ideas, there is no real evidence as to why they exist. A new paper published in the Journal of Business and Psychology tested three of the leading explanations of the existence or the beauty premium and ugliness penalty: discrimination, self-election, and individual differences. To do this, the researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. This is a nationally representative sample that includes measurements of physical attractiveness (5-point scale) at four time points to the age of 29. People were placed into 5 categories based on physical attractiveness, from very attractive to very unattractive. They statistically compared every combination they could think of and came up with many tables full of tiny numbers, as well as some interesting results.DiscriminationIt is what it sounds like: ugly people are discriminated against and paid less. And it isn’t just from employers, it can also be from co-workers, customers, or clients that prefer to work with or do business with pretty people. Or it could be a combination, like an employer that hires someone pretty because they know that others will respond to them better. Because there is a monotonically positive association between attractiveness and earnings (an overly academic way of saying that one is linked to the other), it can be tested.The results painted a somewhat different picture than you might expect. There was some evidence of a beauty premium in that pretty people earned more than average looking people. However, the researchers found that attractiveness and earnings were not at all monotonic. In fact, ugly people earned more than both average and attractive people, with “very unattractive” people winning out in most cases. So no ugliness penalty and no discrimination there. Good, we don’t like discrimination. Rather, the underlying productivity of workers as measured by their intelligence and education accounted for the associations observed. Basically, ugly people were smarter (and yes, IQ was a variable).Self-ElectionThis occurs in the absence of discrimination. A person self-sorts themselves into an attractiveness group based on how attractive they perceive themselves to be and may choose their occupation accordingly. If a pretty person chooses an occupation that has higher earnings (or vice versa), then there is a positive association between attractiveness and earnings both across and within occupations.Once again, the results were unexpected. The self-selection hypothesis was refuted. Ugly people earned more than pretty people. In fact, very unattractive people earned more than both regular unattractive and average looking people. This is where the researchers start calling this effect “the ugliness premium.” Good term. Individual DifferencesThis one posits that a pretty and ugly people are genuinely different. Try looking at it in the context of evolutionary biology. Physical attractiveness is based on facial symmetry, averageness, and secondary sexual characteristics, which all signal genetic and developmental health. Many traits can be quantified very accurately with today’s computers. There are standards of beauty both within a single culture and across all cultures. Studies have also shown that attractive children receive more positive feedback from interpersonal interactions, making them more likely to develop an extraverted personality. If health, intelligence, and personality, along with other measures of productivity, are statistically controlled then attractiveness should be able to be compared to earnings.Again, there was absolutely no evidence for either the beauty premium or the ugliness penalty. Rather, there was some support for the ugliness premium. Now keep in mind, this was not as much a this-higher-than-that, but more of a this-different-from-that type of hypothesis. So there actually is strong support that there are differences. There was a significantly positive effect of health and intelligence on earnings. Also, the “Big Five” personality factors – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (or OCEAN…cute) – were significantly correlated with physical attractiveness. Pretty people were more OCEA and less N. This may be why looks appear to have an effect on earnings.Overall, not what you thought it would be, huh? Me either. The importance of intelligence and education as it correlates with attractiveness would be an interesting next step. I wonder if it reflects the time at which these data were taken. We are seeing the Rise of the Nerds, where intelligence is outpacing beauty in terms of success. Had they analyzed data from another decade, would the ugliness penalty find support?Kanazawa, S., & Still, M. (2017). Is There Really a Beauty Premium or an Ugliness Penalty on Earnings? Journal of Business and Psychology DOI: 10.1007/s10869-017-9489-6image via Linked4Success... Read more »

  • May 26, 2017
  • 07:02 AM
  • 28 views

Cassandra’s Regret: The Psychology of Not Wanting to  Know

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

Do you want to know the future? You may want to say it all depends on which aspects of your future. Typically, while we seek information routinely to make decisions in our day-to-day lives, we don’t always want to know for sure what will happen in our futures. These researchers remind us about the story […]... Read more »

Gigerenzer G, & Garcia-Retamero R. (2017) Cassandra's regret: The psychology of not wanting to know. Psychological Review, 124(2), 179-196. PMID: 28221086  

  • May 26, 2017
  • 05:08 AM
  • 27 views

The PI3K/mTOR inhibitor GSK2126458 is effective for treating TSC solid renal tumours

by Joana Guedes in BHD Research Blog

Tuberous sclerosis (TSC) is an inherited tumour syndrome that shares clinical similarities with Birt-Hogg-Dube Syndrome. It is caused by mutations in TSC1 or TSC2 that lead to aberrant activation of mTOR, affecting multiple organs, including the kidney and lung. In the kidney, lesions such as multiple renal cysts and renal cell carcinoma (RCC) can occur. Tumour reduction in TSC patients after treatment with rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTOR, is partial and reversible probably due to feedback activation of Akt. In their new study, Narov et al. (2017) test the efficacy of GSK2126458, an inhibitor of PI3K/mTOR, in comparison to rapamycin, for treatment of renal tumours in genetically engineered Tsc2 /- mice, that spontaneously develop various lesions in the kidneys. Both GSK2126458 and rapamycin caused significant reduction in number and size of solid renal tumours. GSK2126458 inhibited both PI3K and mTOR while rapamycin exerted stronger inhibitory effect on mTORC1 in renal tumours. Both GSK2126458 and rapamycin suppressed proliferation of tumour cells. However, GSK2126458 increased apoptosis of solid tumours but rapamycin did not. Further investigations are needed to test whether rapamycin in combination with GSK2126458 can improve anti-tumour therapy.... Read more »

  • May 26, 2017
  • 03:06 AM
  • 31 views

On ADHD medication and motor vehicle crashes

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Among patients with ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder], rates of MVCs [motor vehicle crashes] were lower during periods when they received ADHD medication."That was the research bottom-line discussed by Zheng Chang and colleagues [1] who continue a theme on how managing/treating the symptoms of ADHD can often have some profound effects on those diagnosed with ADHD and also the wider population.The outcome measure on this occasion was MVCs; in particular: "Emergency department visits for MVCs" as assessed from data from the "Truven Health Analytics MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters databases." I've talked about the application of this resource in a research context before on this blog (see here). Such Emergency Room (ER) (also known as Accident & Emergency (A&E) here in Blighty) visits were assessed for those with and without a diagnosis of ADHD or those in receipt of  "ADHD medication between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2014." Authors compared the "risk of at least one MVC between patients with ADHD and matched controls."The results, based on quite a large number of people (2 million+) diagnosed with ADHD, suggested that: "Patients with ADHD had a significantly higher risk of an MVC than their matched controls." Medication for ADHD - of which over 80% of the cohort with ADHD were taking - seemed to affect the risk of MVCs as per the sentence introducing this post. Indeed authors noted: "months with ADHD medication were associated with a 12%... lower risk of MVCs in male patients with ADHD relative to unmedicated months and a 14%... lower risk of MVCs in female patients with ADHD." The figures actually got even better for risk reduction of MVCs when analysed at the "within-individual" level: "men with ADHD were 38% less likely to have MVC events during medicated months relative to unmedicated months" and for women, this figure went up to 42% less likely to have an MVC during medicated months. All-in-all, treating ADHD with medication meant less visits to the ER for motor vehicle crashes.Accepting that the use of medication for ADHD (or anything else) is not something that should ever be entered into lightly, there is quite a large body of evidence emerging suggesting that specific preparations at least, are both safe and reliable in terms of tackling the symptoms of ADHD (see here). Indeed, clinicians are seemingly becoming a lot more comfortable with employing pharmacotherapeutic strategies for ADHD (see here) probably in part, due to the effectiveness of available medications and their pretty good safety profile. I say all that noting that medication is not necessarily the only tool in the arsenal (see here and see here for examples).Of course there are caveats to this latest set of results; not least that this was a study looking at two variables (MVCs leading to ER attendance and ADHD medication(s)) and so might potentially have missed other data/factors (e.g. MVCs not requiring ER attendance). One also assumes that ADHD medication prescriptions were also being taken uniformly every day as indicated...Still, there is good reason to think that ADHD medication might be 'doing what it says on the tin' in terms of tackling issues such as inattention and impulsivity and how this had knock-on effects for MVCs requiring hospitalisation. Indeed, thinking also about the safety of other motorists who might have potentially benefited from the behaviour of those drivers with ADHD under medication, one can only see the life-changing potential of these informative results...----------[1] Chang Z. et al. Association Between Medication Use for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crashes. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017. May 10.----------Chang Z, Quinn PD, Hur K, Gibbons RD, Sjolander A, Larsson H, & D'Onofrio BM (2017). Association Between Medication Use for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crashes. JAMA psychiatry PMID: 28492937... Read more »

  • May 25, 2017
  • 11:07 PM
  • 42 views

Gaslighting in the Medical Literature

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Have you felt that your sense of reality has been challenged lately? That the word “truth” has no meaning any more? Does the existence of alternative facts make you question your own sanity? In modern usage, the term gaslighting refers to “a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making him/her doubt his/her own memory and perception”.Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target's belief.In December 2016, the amazing Lauren Duca1 wrote a widely shared piece for Teen Vogue, Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America. In it, she argued that Trump won the election by normalizing deception. Duca noted that the term gaslighting originated from the 1938 play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton, and explained it in this way:"Gas lighting" is a buzzy name for a terrifying strategy currently being used to weaken and blind the American electorate. We are collectively being treated like Bella Manningham in the 1938 Victorian thriller from which the term "gas light" takes its name. In the play, Jack terrorizes his wife Bella into questioning her reality by blaming her for mischievously misplacing household items which he systematically hides. Doubting whether her perspective can be trusted, Bella clings to a single shred of evidence: the dimming of the gas lights that accompanies the late night execution of Jack’s trickery. The wavering flame is the one thing that holds her conviction in place as she wriggles free of her captor’s control.Gaslighting in the Medical LiteratureBarton and Whitehead (1969) were the first to report cases where a patient's mental state was manipulated for material (or situational) gain, calling it the “Gas-Light Phenomenon”. If these incidents sound like something straight out of domestic noir or a TV crime drama, you'd be right.Case 1 – 48 year old mechanic, married for 10 years, with three childrenMr. A. was admitted one evening to a psychiatric hospital as an emergency. His general practitioner, when asking for his admission, had said he was mentally ill and had attacked his wife. ...On admission the patient said he had felt tense and depressed for about six months and related this to his wife’s changed attitude towards him. He said she had become "cold", and he thought she might have been seeing another man. He denied he had been violent and thought he had been sent into hospital because of his "nerves".His wife had concocted an elaborate tale of abuse, saying he had become “irritable, bad-tempered, and liable to unprovoked violent outbursts in which he sometimes hit her and once struck her with a hatchet.” She also claimed his memory was deteriorating, and she categorically denied having an affair. Mr. A was hospitalized for 12 days with no obvious physical or psychiatric disorder and left feeling more relaxed.However, he returned to hospital two weeks later: “He said his wife had started taunting him, saying he was mad and should be in a mental hospital. His wife said that his mental condition had considerably worsened and that he had attacked her twice.”Fortunately for Mr. A, his boss overheard a conversation between two men in the local tavern. One of the men was Mrs. A's lover, discussing how the two of them had plotted to get rid of Mr. A using the false claims of mental illness and abuse. The hospital staff confronted Mrs. A with her lies:She finally agreed that she had plotted with her boy-friend to get rid of her husband, but claimed she had been led on by him and now very much regretted her behaviour. Following some family counselling Mr. and Mrs. A. became reconciled and five years later were still living happily together.Case 2 – 45 year old pub owner married for 14 yearsMr. B was admitted based on his wife's story about her husband’s “heavy drinking, erratic behaviour, and aggressive outbursts.”On admission to the unit Mr. B. gave a history of domestic difficulties and described mild symptoms of anxiety and depression. ...  He agreed that he was irritable but said that he had never been aggressive and did not acknowledge any of the common symptoms of alcoholism. ... recently ... his wife had lost interest in him and had started associating with younger men. She often stayed out all night, and when he asked her about this behaviour she told him not to be silly and accused him of being a drunk who should be put away.A member of the staff eventually found out about Mrs. B's fabrication and her intent to get rid of her husband, keep the pub, and “then really start living.” Unlike the outcome of Case 1, Mr. B left his wife and was quite happy without her five years later.Case 3 – 72 year old widowThis case is unique, because it goes beyond mere mental manipulation. Mrs. C. was referred to a psychiatric hospital because of a "confusional state" and "fecal incontinence" that made her unfit for the old persons' home where she resided. She had moderate Parkinson's disease and slight dementia, but she was fairly well oriented and pleasant in demeanor. She stayed in the hospital for six weeks and showed no signs of fecal incontinence while there. And indeed it turned out that her incontinence had been cruelly induced by large doses of laxatives:The lady running the home had been unable to develop a good relationship with Mrs. C. and considered "she was a naughty old thing making life difficult for me, my staff, and other folk on purpose".For some weeks before admission to hospital Mrs. C. had been receiving ’Dulcolax’ tablets one three times a day. This had produced the expected effect with occasional "accidents" due to Mrs. C.’s mobility difficulties. The evidence suggested that Mrs. C. was not wanted in the home and induced incontinence was used as a method of getting her removed to hospital.Case 4 – Another example is an incident reported by Lund and Gardiner (1977), where the staff of the mental hospital conspired to keep a patient there so that one of them could live in her flat. The elderly woman had suffered from paranoid episodes in the past that were successfully treated with medication. But this time “they” were really out to get her:Miss A., an 80-year-old retired professional lady, was first admitted to a mental hospital in connection with this incident under Section 31 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1960, from her pleasant flat in a residential establishment. The admission notes stated that she had complained that there were people on the premises who had no business there, that they had spoken outside her door saying that they were going to throw her into the river and that she further believed that these people were 'after my flat'...Miss A was shuttled in and out of hospital several times until the evil plot was finally foiled:She was admitted for the third time some four months later with a depressingly similar story. Her general practitioner had been called to the home where the patient had allegedly ' barricaded her room'; she had simply put a chair against the door. She was again admitted under an Emergency Order and once more settled down very rapidly, showing no sign of disturbed behaviour. She was generally pleasant and witty, showing some evidence of valuing her independence and mildly resenting the help of the nursing staff, which she regarded as unnecessary interference. At this point, suspicion about the motives of the staff at the institution were aroused. Discreet inquiries revealed that the rooms which Miss A occupied had ... Read more »

Barton R, & Whitehead JA. (1969) The gas-light phenomenon. Lancet (London, England), 1(7608), 1258-60. PMID: 4182427  

Kutcher SP. (1982) The gaslight syndrome. Canadian journal of psychiatry. Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 27(3), 224-7. PMID: 7093877  

Lund CA, & Gardiner AQ. (1977) The gaslight phenomenon--an institutional variant. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science, 533-4. PMID: 588872  

Smith CG, & Sinanan K. (1972) The "gaslight phenomenon" reappears. A modification of the Ganser syndrome. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science, 120(559), 685-6. PMID: 5043219  

  • May 25, 2017
  • 03:02 AM
  • 41 views

Blood heavy metal levels and autism (yet again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Data showed that the children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] had significantly (p < 0.001) higher levels of mercury and arsenic and a lower level of cadmium."And... "It is desirable to continue future research into the relationship between ASD and heavy metal exposure."Those sentences come from the study by Huamei Li and colleagues [1] continuing a research theme regarding (generally) elevated levels of heavy metals being detected in those on the autism spectrum (see here). Yes, I know that this kind of research is not always met with great appreciation (see here) but the suggestion that the heavy metal burden seems to be quite a bit higher in the autistic population is not something that can just be ignored. More so when it might actually be treatable (with no medical or clinical advice given or intended)...There are numerous other examples in the peer-reviewed science literature that I could give where the heavy metal burden has been found to be elevated in relation to autism. Indeed, if someone is looking for yet another systematic review and meta-analysis topic, there you go - you're welcome. Personally, I think we've reached the point where the questioning needs to move on to (a) the possible sources of those heavy metals and (b) whether 'exposure amount' is the sole reason for the elevations in relation to autism over and above issues with the biology around 'detoxifying' said metals. Answers are not likely to be simple but questioning has to continue...To close, he was always my favourite James Bond...----------[1] Li H. et al. Blood Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Lead in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2017 May 8.---------- Li H, Li H, Li Y, Liu Y, & Zhao Z (2017). Blood Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Lead in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Biological trace element research PMID: 28480499... Read more »

  • May 24, 2017
  • 10:21 AM
  • 58 views

Unreliability of fMRI Emotional Biomarkers

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Brain responses to emotion stimuli are highly variable even within the same individual, and this could be a problem for researchers who seek to use these responses as biomarkers to help diagnose and treat disorders such as depression.

That's according to a new paper in Neuroimage, from University College London neuroscientists Camilla Nord and colleagues.



Nord et al. had 29 volunteers perform three tasks during fMRI scanning. All of the tasks involved pictures of emotional faces, which... Read more »

  • May 24, 2017
  • 07:02 AM
  • 68 views

The Invisibility Cloak Illusion: We are more observant (and  yet, less observed) than all others

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

This is the sort of article that can either amuse or terrify you. It will amuse you if you are charmed by all the ways in which we see ourselves as superior to others. And it will terrify you if you do not want to know that you are always being observed closely by everyone […]... Read more »

  • May 24, 2017
  • 04:33 AM
  • 48 views

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as a risk factor for bipolar disorder

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Only irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) emerged as a risk factor for BD [bipolar disorder] supported by convincing evidence."So said the results of the umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses by Beatrice Bortolato and colleagues [1] looking at the various environmental risk factors potentially linked to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I might add that this is a topic that has been discussed before on this blog (see here and see here for examples).If the systematic review / meta-analysis represents the top of the research methodology hierarchy, a review including a number of systematic reviews and meta-analyses represents the cherry on top. Indeed, there is a growing trend of this kind of research (see here).The authorship names included on the Bortolato paper are not unfamiliar to this type of study methodology (see here) and specifically, the focus on psychiatric and somatic variables often being intertwined. This time around attentions turned to bipolar disorder, previously called manic depression, and a survey of 16 research publications identified listing over 50 "unique environmental risk factors for BD." The report of a possible link (with 'convincing evidence') between IBS and BD consolidates the idea of a gut-brain axis. Authors also detailed a few other factors as showing weaker but not necessarily less important connections to BD including childhood adversity, obesity and asthma. Focusing in on asthma in particular - a condition again previously talked about in the context of BD - I am wondering whether there are quite a few more generalisations connected to this diagnosis within the context of psychiatric labels (see here and see here)?Of course, more science is indicated on the hows-and-whys of connections such as the one between IBS and BD and the tantalising prospect of new intervention avenues if such a relationship is further confirmed. Minus any medical or clinical advice, I'm specifically thinking about how alterations to the gut microbiome accompanying cases of IBS might mean that talk of things like probiotics affecting the symptoms of IBS (see here) could be applicable to the presentation of [some] BD too. That and the idea that certain dietary elements might also be important to cases (see here and see here)...To close, I know that the past few days have not exactly been ones for smiling, but if some smiles and laughter are what you need, then the animal kingdom can provide them...----------[1] Bortolato B. et al. Systematic assessment of environmental risk factors for bipolar disorder: an umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Bipolar Disord. 2017; 00: 1–13.----------Bortolato, B., Köhler, C., Evangelou, E., León-Caballero, J., Solmi, M., Stubbs, B., Belbasis, L., Pacchiarotti, I., Kessing, L., Berk, M., Vieta, E., & Carvalho, A. (2017). Systematic assessment of environmental risk factors for bipolar disorder: an umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses Bipolar Disorders DOI: 10.1111/bdi.12490... Read more »

  • May 23, 2017
  • 12:38 PM
  • 56 views

Dismantle the Poverty Trap by Nurturing Community Trust

by Jalees Rehman in The Next Regeneration

Understanding the precise reasons for why people living in poverty often make decisions that seem short-sighted, such as foregoing more education or taking on high-interest short-term loans, is the first step to help them escape poverty. The obvious common-sense fix is to ensure that the basic needs of all citizens – food, shelter, clothing, health and personal safety – are met, so that they no longer have to use all new funds for survival. This is obviously easier in the developed world, but it is not a trivial matter considering that the USA – supposedly the richest country in the world – has an alarmingly high poverty rate. It is estimated that more than 40 million people in the US live in poverty, fearing hunger and eviction from their homes. But just taking care of these basic needs may not be enough to help citizens escape poverty. A recent research study by Jon Jachimowicz at Columbia University and his colleagues investigated “myopic” (short-sighted) decision-making of people with lower income and identified an important new factor: community trust.... Read more »

Jachimowicz, J., Chafik, S., Munrat, S., Prabhu, J., & Weber, E. (2017) Community trust reduces myopic decisions of low-income individuals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201617395. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1617395114  

  • May 23, 2017
  • 07:06 AM
  • 58 views

Multi-Loop Structure of Nonthermal Microwave Sources in a Major Long-Duration Flare by V. Grechnev et al.*

by CESRA in Solar Radio Science

Hard X-ray (HXR) and microwave observations of flares show only a few nonthermal sources. They are simple and compact, especially in impulsive flares, suggesting involvement of one to two loops. Hanaoka (1996) and Nishio et al. (1997) interpreted these observations in terms of double-loop flares. This view was later extended up to long-duration flares (Tzatzakis, Nindos, and Alissandrakis, 2008). A concept of a simple flare loop became dominant. However, observations [...]... Read more »

  • May 23, 2017
  • 02:54 AM
  • 71 views

"there is no single way for a brain to be normal" (or how 'neurotypical' is a nonsense)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm not usually so forthright with my posts on this blog, but today I'm being a little more bullish as I talk about an editorial from Simon Baron-Cohen [1] titled: "Neurodiversity – a revolutionary concept for autism and psychiatry."The crux of the SBC paper is the suggestion that use of the term 'disorder' specifically with autism in mind might have certain connotations - "Disorder should be used when there is nothing positive about the condition" - and until the "biomedical mechanistic cause of a disorder becomes known" some thought should go into the way autism for example, is described.The author seems to come down on something between 'difference' and 'disability' as being valid replacements, bearing in mind the wide - very wide - heterogeneity that is the autism spectrum and the fact that 'disorder' is still very prominent in the formal clinical descriptions of autism and related diagnoses (see here). Indeed on the topic of 'biomedical mechanistic causes' and [some] autism, well, there is already some evidence for this (see here)...Personally, I don't want to get involved in such disorder/difference debates. I say this on the basis that (a) people have their own ideas, descriptions and motivations for talking about what autism is and isn't to them (and who I am to question them and their views) and (b) from a research and clinical point of view, such linguistic differences make little difference when it comes to whether someone does or does not reach critical cut-off points for being on the autism spectrum and the subsequent help and support required. These are cultural issues not fundamental research or clinical ones (although I daresay some people would argue against that last point).What I do however want to mention about the Baron-Cohen article is that specific sentence described in the title of this post - "there is no single way for a brain to be normal" - in relation to neurodiversity [2] and how said phrase helps dismantle a problematic term present in various autism circles: neurotypical (NT).I see the word neurotypical (NT) banded about a lot these days including in the peer-reviewed domain. I assume from the name that the term describes 'others' who within the vast spectrum of diversity - neuro and otherwise - are, in relation to autism, not positioned on the autism spectrum. It's basically an 'us-and-them' term, which means not-autism (or other condition where similarly applied).The problem I have with this term relates to the questions: what exactly is neurotypical? and who actually falls under such a description?OK, we have the first bit - neuro - which is also used/misused a lot these days (together with some scepticism) I assume referring to the brain. Autism is often described in terms of the brain (structure, connectivity, 'wiring') as mentioned in the Baron-Cohen text, with some groups even talking about the possibility of an 'autistic brain' (see here). More precisely 'neuro' probably better describes the nervous system so one might instead look to the term 'autistic nervous system' as being more accurate (bearing in mind the brain is but one thinking organ in the body!). The second part - 'typical' - on it's own means just that: classic, quintessential, representative. Put them both together and the suggestion is that there is an 'average, representative brain / nervous system' in the population that is distinct from the 'autistic brain / nervous system'.Why is this problematic? Well, this is where the concept of 'identity' has I think perhaps overstretched itself.The 'autistic brain'? Bullshit (pardon my language). As I've said before on this blog, there is nothing in the peer-reviewed science literature to yet say that the brains / nervous system of everyone diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum are in any way universally different from those not reaching thresholds for the autism spectrum (see here). Nothing. Not one article. Indeed, with the greater recognition that autism is probably a plural condition covered by a singular label (see here), the likelihood that something / anything will universally define the 'autistic brain' is becoming even more distant. Y'know, much like the fading concept of an autistic gene that's taken so long to consign to the research dustbin/trashcan. I say all this even before we start to add-in the idea that autism rarely exists in some sort of diagnostic vacuum (see here) in these days of ESSENCE (see here).OK, you might say that 'typical' could be stretched to include a wider spectrum of brains / functioning / thinking rather than just one singular thing? Well, that's true but here's another issue: at what point does 'typical' then turn into 'atypical'? The inference is that alongside the neurotypical there is something akin to the neuroatypical. Where are these boundaries of neurotypical and neuroatypical? Do the boundaries shudder to an abrupt halt the moment cut-off points for a diagnosis of autism are reached or surpassed? Does this also mean that other labels such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also outside of the term neurotypical? Really? On what evidence?Then also there are the various observations that the presentation(s) of autism - the symptoms / characteristics / label - might actually be quite fluid across different people according to variables such as age or environment and how that further complicates the neurotypical concept. I've talked for example, before about how something like diagnostic stability is perhaps not as stable as many people might think when it comes to some autism (see here) and indeed, in relation to other over-represented comorbidity too (see here). Does this mean that those for example, currently not fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for autism but having previously done so at some previous point have somehow 'transitioned' from autism to neurotypical? Again, really? On what evidence?I could go on (and on) about the other problems with the concept of neurotypical (e.g. the problem of objectively measuring thinking styles, etc) but I won't. All I'll say is that in the age of 'show me the evidence' please do show me the evidence - any evidence - that neurotypical is anything other than an alternative phrase to 'not-autism' or at least not meeting the current cut-off thresholds for a diagnosis of autism or related label.And, on the basis of the points I've raised in today's post, how then can science continue to justify it's use when the description of neurotypical is, by all accounts, a nonsense?----------[1] Baron-Cohen S. Editorial Perspective: Neurodiversity - a revolutionary concept for autism and psychiatry. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017 Jun;58(6):744-747.[2] Armstrong T. The myth of the normal brain: embracing neurodiversity. AMA J Ethics. 2015 Apr 1;17(4):348-52.----------... Read more »

  • May 22, 2017
  • 03:00 PM
  • 121 views

Unraveling the Mysteries of Mischievous Microbiome

by Aurametrix team in Aurametrix Blog

Science explains why some people smell worse than others despite keeping themselves squeaky clean. The body is crawling with bacteria increasing the risk for diseases for which we have unreserved levels of sympathy. It can also lead to ​unlikable conditions such as unpredictable and embarrassing outbursts of body odor - so bad it ruins social lives and careers.  But there is no cure for metabolic body odor ... Read more »

  • May 22, 2017
  • 05:13 AM
  • 69 views

"a gluten-related subgroup of schizophrenia"?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A quote to begin this post: "this preliminary study demonstrates that altered AGDA [antibodies against gliadin-derived antigen] levels in the circulation are associated with schizophrenia and could serve as biomarkers for the identification of a schizophrenia subgroup that may need an alternative therapy or precision treatment."So said the findings reported by McLean and colleagues [1] (open-access) looking at an area of some interest to this blog (see here) on how dietary gluten might show something of an important relationship to at least some cases of schizophrenia. Just in case you weren't aware, there is quite a history when it comes to gluten and schizophrenia (see here) as per the very forward-thinking of people such as Curt Dohan and Karl Reichelt.Researchers on this latest occasion set about looking in a little more detail at the suggestion that circulating anti-gliadin antibodies (AGAs) reflective of an immune response to a component of dietary gluten might show some connection to schizophrenia. Indeed they note that "all the tests for circulating AGAs in schizophrenia have been developed with mixtures of full-length native gliadins consisting of ~300 amino acid residues" suggesting that such a scatter gun approach may have included epitopes "that are unlikely to survive digestion in the gut." So, they instead "measured plasma levels of IgG and IgA against indigestible peptide fragments derived from γ- and α-gliadins" in archived plasma samples from "169 patients with schizophrenia and 236 control subjects."The results - based on the use of an "In-house ELISA for antibodies against gliadin-derived antigens" - were rather intriguing. So: "There was no significant difference in the levels of plasma antibodies against native gliadins between the patient group and the control group." If I'm reading this right, this finding is in contrast to other independent research occasions [2]. Indeed, when it came to looking at both IgA and IgG plasma anti-gliadin antibodies, there was no significant difference between the schizophrenia and non-schizophrenia participants as groups.But... when it came to a specific gliadin (γ-Gliadin) derived fragment  - AAQ6C - with the amino acid sequence HPKCSIMRAPFASIVAGIGGQYRD - researchers reported on something potentially important to see: "patients with schizophrenia had significantly higher levels of plasma anti-AAQ6C IgG than control subjects." Importantly too, authors also noted that anti-psychotic medication did not appear to influence their antibody results. This was important given that seemingly all of the participants diagnosed with schizophrenia were taking one or more of this class of medicine. In line with the opening quote to this post, the authors make a preliminary foray into the possible 'biomarker' usefulness of the various anti-gluten antibodies for schizophrenia. I have to say on this point however, that the data is not that impressive as things currently stand.There is more to do when it comes to the possible effects of dietary elements containing gluten (and casein) in relation to cases of schizophrenia. This work adds something to the idea that diet can affect psychiatry/behaviour/development but what is perhaps missing is the recognition that schizophrenia is probably a heterogeneous and plural condition (see here and see here for examples) and as such, not every case is going to be gluten and/or casein-related. I do agree with the authors that more research is needed in this area alongside the idea that intervention via either dietary changes [3] and/or other options might also be on the research agenda...----------[1] McLean RT. et al. Differential antibody responses to gliadin-derived indigestible peptides in patients with schizophrenia. Translational Psychiatr. 2017. May 9.[2] Dickerson F. et al. Markers of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in recent-onset psychosis and multi-episode schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul 1;68(1):100-4.[3] Jackson J. et al. A gluten-free diet in people with schizophrenia and anti-tissue transglutaminase or anti-gliadin antibodies. Schizophrenia Res. 2012;140(0):262-263.----------McLean RT, Wilson P, St Clair D, Mustard CJ, & Wei J (2017). Differential antibody responses to gliadin-derived indigestible peptides in patients with schizophrenia. Translational psychiatry, 7 (5) PMID: 28485731... Read more »

  • May 22, 2017
  • 04:30 AM
  • 95 views

Should Athletic Trainers Add Anxiety Surveys to Preseason Baseline Testing?

by Jane McDevitt in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

An athlete with anxiety symptoms during preseason was more likely to get injured during a season than an athlete without symptoms.... Read more »

  • May 21, 2017
  • 10:50 AM
  • 75 views

Predictive Processing: the role of confidence and precision

by Sergio Graziosi in Writing my own user manual - Sergio Graziosi's Blog

This is the second post in a series inspired by Andy Clark’s book “Surfing Uncertainty“. In the previous post I’ve mentioned that an important concept in the Predictive Processing (PP) framework is the role of confidence. Confidence (in a prediction)…Read more ›... Read more »

Kanai R, Komura Y, Shipp S, & Friston K. (2015) Cerebral hierarchies: predictive processing, precision and the pulvinar. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 370(1668). PMID: 25823866  

  • May 21, 2017
  • 07:55 AM
  • 104 views

A Survey of Our Secret Lives

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

What kinds of secrets does the average person keep? In a new paper, Columbia University researchers Michael L. Slepian and colleagues carried out a survey of secrets.



Slepian et al. developed a 'Common Secrets Questionnaire' (CSQ) and gave it to 600 participants recruited anonymously online. Participants were asked whether they'd ever had various secrets, at any point in their lives. The results are a monument to all our sins:

It turns out that extra-relational thoughts - meaning "thou... Read more »

Slepian, M., Chun, J., & Mason, M. (2017) The Experience of Secrecy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000085  

  • May 20, 2017
  • 06:12 AM
  • 93 views

Gastrin-releasing peptide and autism continued

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Yet another 'continued' or 'part 2' short post for you today, building on some previous - very preliminary research - talking about the use of gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) and autism (see here).The authors included on the paper by Josemar Marchezan and colleagues [1] are familiar ones to this part of the autism research landscape as per the other occasions that members of this group have looked at / talked about GRP and autism in the peer-reviewed domain.GRP is all about a compound that 'does what it says on the tin' insofar as stimulating the release of gastrin from specialist cells in the stomach. This in turn leads to the secretion of gastric acid among other things and onward aids the digestion of food.This time around Marchezan et al describe the results of a controlled trial on the use of GRP (vs. placebo) in a small group of boys (N=10) diagnosed with autism. This is a step-up from their previous research efforts in this area talking about a case series report and an open (non-blinded, non-placeboed?) study. Participants were given the same amount of GRP (160 pmol/kg) over the same number of days (4 consecutive days) as that detailed in their previous studies. This time around, the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) scale was the outcome measure of choice.Results: well, let's put it one way, they weren't exactly astounding in terms of any positive effects from the use of GRP over such a short space of time. This was exemplified by the authors use of "no statistical difference" when it came to looking at quite a lot of the data obtained during the investigation comparing GRP to placebo. On the plus side there were "no adverse effects, changes in vital signs, or laboratory abnormalities associated with the use of GRP" so the whole 'first do no harm' bit seems to be intact, at least in the short-term.Whilst it would be easy to sweep such results under the 'did not work' carpet, I am however minded to go with the authors' suggestion that "further research with other designs and a larger sample size to evaluate the efficacy and safety of GRP in children with autism" would be a step forward. I say this on the basis that hypochlorhydria - low levels of gastric acid - is not something completely unknown to parts of the autism spectrum (see here) and does suggest some *possible* involvement for something like GRP in specific cases of autism.----------[1] Marchezan J. et al. A Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial of Gastrin-Releasing Peptide in Childhood Autism. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2017 Apr 27.----------Marchezan, J., Becker, M., Schwartsmann, G., Ohlweiler, L., Roesler, R., Renck, L., Gonçalves, M., Ranzan, J., & Riesgo, R. (2017). A Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial of Gastrin-Releasing Peptide in Childhood Autism Clinical Neuropharmacology DOI: 10.1097/WNF.0000000000000213... Read more »

Marchezan, J., Becker, M., Schwartsmann, G., Ohlweiler, L., Roesler, R., Renck, L., Gonçalves, M., Ranzan, J., & Riesgo, R. (2017) A Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial of Gastrin-Releasing Peptide in Childhood Autism. Clinical Neuropharmacology, 1. DOI: 10.1097/WNF.0000000000000213  

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