Premature Commercialization in Suicide Prediction

By Neuroskeptic | April 19, 2019 12:31 pm

A Swedish company called Emotra make a device to detect someone’s risk of suicide based on measuring the body’s autonomic responses to certain sounds. It’s called EDOR®.

edor

I’ve been blogging about this machine for the past 18 months (1, 2, 3) because such a product, if it worked, would be very important. It could help save countless lives. Unfortunately, I don’t think EDOR® has been proven to be effective. As I’ve argued in my previous posts, the evidence just isn’t there yet.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: mental health, science, select, Top Posts

Ariana Grande’s PTSD Brain Scan

By Neuroskeptic | April 13, 2019 10:45 am

The brain became a celebrity this week when Ariana Grande shared the results of a scan of her brain seemingly showing signs of severe PTSD:

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The Driver is the Brain of the Car

By Neuroskeptic | April 6, 2019 3:34 pm

Suppose, if you will, that alien scientists came down to Earth and began to study the local lifeforms. But let’s suppose that these aliens arrive by the side of a busy expressway, and stay there. Our extraterrestrials might conclude that cars are the dominant inhabitants of Earth.

cars

Cars clearly exhibit intelligent behaviour, being able to navigate around obstacles and follow complex instructions on road signs. How, the aliens may wonder, do the cars manage this? What is the seat of car intelligence?

After some experimentation, the aliens would eventually work out that it is a carbon-based organ inside the car – aka the driver – that is controlling the vehicle. The driver is the one making the decisions, and the rest of the car is just following its commands. The proof of this is that if the aliens remove a car’s driver, it stops moving.

Experiments could be conducted to find out the function of different parts of the driver. Lesion the driver’s feet, for instance, and the car would have trouble braking and accelerating, while arm damage would produce selective deficits in turning.

These lesion experiments could be supplemented with imaging studies, in which aliens scan the car and record the activity in the different parts of the driver. Just as lesion studies predicted, the feet would be more active when braking, while arm movements would predict turns.

gary

Eventually, “driverscience” – the study of the driver and its function – would become a well-developed field of alien research. Everyalien would know that the arms are responsible for steering while the feet control speed, and so on.

*

I hope it’s obvious that in this scenario I’m drawing an analogy between the driver, as controller of the car, and the brain as the controller of the body. The aliens have concluded that the human driver is the “brain” of the car.

Knowing neuroscience as we do, we might be tempted to say that the aliens are mistaken, and that only the driver’s brain is actually responsible for controlling the car. The aliens are wrong in thinking that hands or feet or other body-parts have anything to do with intelligence, we think. The brain is the driver of the driver.

Yet who is to say that we are not falling into the same trap as the aliens, when we attribute intelligence to particular brain regions? If we talk about the amygdala (say) “recognising a threat”, we imply that this region, by itself, is carrying out an intelligent function; but this might be as mistaken as to say that the feet “recognize” that the car is going too fast.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: funny, philosophy, select, Top Posts

Independent Discussion Sections?

By Neuroskeptic | March 20, 2019 8:19 am

Scientific papers should have two Discussion sections – one written by the authors, and the other by an independent researcher.

According to a new paper from Michael S. Avidan, John P. A. Ioannidis and George A. Mashour, this “second discussant” system could help ensure more balanced and objective inference in science.

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Are Atheists Genetically Damaged?

By Neuroskeptic | March 16, 2019 2:31 pm

I just came across a paper with an interesting title: The Mutant Says in His Heart, “There Is No God”.

The conclusions of this work are even more interesting. According to the authors, Edward Dutton et al., humans evolved to be religious and atheism is caused (in part) by mutational damage to our normal, religious DNA. Atheists, in other words, are genetic degenerates.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: funny, genes, papers, religionism, select, Top Posts

The Curious Foreign Accent Syndrome

By Neuroskeptic | March 9, 2019 3:25 pm

“Foreign Accent Syndrome” (FAS) is a rare disorder in which patients start to speak with a foreign or regional tone. This striking condition is often associated with brain damage, such as stroke. Presumably, the lesion affects the neural pathways by which the brain controls the tongue and vocal cords, thus producing a strange sounding speech.

frenchbrain

Yet there may be more to FAS than meets the eye (or ear). According to a new paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, many or even most cases of FAS are ‘functional’, meaning that the cause of the symptoms lies in psychological processes rather than a brain lesion.

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The Cancer Personality Scandal (Part 1)

By Neuroskeptic | February 25, 2019 4:09 am

The Journal of Health Psychology has just published an extraordinary pair of papers that call for a new inquiry into a 30-year old case of probable scientific fraud.

According to Anthony J. Pelosi, author of the main paper, the case was “one of the worst scientific scandals of all time” and yet has never been formally investigated. The journal’s editor, David F. Marks, agrees and, in an editorial, also calls for the retraction or correction of up to 61 papers. Read More

Silent Neurons: The Dark Matter of the Brain?

By Neuroskeptic | February 6, 2019 3:38 pm

Now here’s a paper with an interesting title: The dark matter of the brain

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, select, Top Posts

How Emergent is the Brain?

By Neuroskeptic | February 2, 2019 6:39 am

A new paper offers a broad challenge to a certain kind of ‘grand theory’ about the brain. According to the authors, Federico E. Turkheimer and colleagues, it is problematic to build models of brain function that rely on ‘strong emergence’.

dreams

Two popular theories, the Free Energy Principle aka Bayesian Brain and the Integrated Information Theory model, are singled out as examples of strong emergence-based work.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, philosophy, science, select, Top Posts

A New Look at Neurogenesis in Humans

By Neuroskeptic | January 30, 2019 3:31 am

What, if anything, is the function of adult neurogenesis in humans? Does neurogenesis even exist in our adult brains, or does it shut down during childhood?

The debate over human neurogenesis has been one of the most prominent disputes in 21st century neuroscience. Just last year, two opposing papers appeared in leading journals, one claiming firm evidence of ongoing neurogenesis in the adult human dentate gyrus, while the other study came to the opposite conclusion. The fact that adult neurogenesis is reliably seen in rodents only adds to the confusion. If rats and mice have it, and we don’t, what does that mean?

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