Waneta Hoyt: The Serial Killer Paper

By Neuroskeptic | January 16, 2018 12:16 pm

I just learned about a truly remarkable case in which a doctor apparently wrote a paper about a serial killer who murdered her five children – without realizing what had happened. It’s an old case, but it doesn’t seem to be widely known today.

The paper is called Prolonged apnea and the sudden infant death syndrome: clinical and laboratory observations and it was written in 1972 by Dr Alfred Steinschneider of Syracuse, New York. In this paper, Steinschneider described the case of a woman, “Mrs H”, who had already lost three children, ostensibly to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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MORE ABOUT: psychology

Debunking Phrenology with 21st Century Methods

By Neuroskeptic | January 7, 2018 5:29 am

Modern neuroscience has been accused of being a ‘new phrenology‘, but now researchers have conducted a modern evaluation of phrenological claims using neuroscience methods.

In an enjoyable new preprint called An empirical, 21st century evaluation of phrenology, Oxford researchers Oiwi Parker Jones and colleagues say that they’ve rigorously tested, and debunked, phrenology for the first time.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: funny, history, papers, science, select, Top Posts

Is Reproducibility Really Central to Science?

By Neuroskeptic | January 2, 2018 12:13 pm

In a new paper in the Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, Chris Drummond takes aim at the ‘reproducibility movement’ which has lately risen to prominence in science.

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Secrets of a “Zombie” Fungus Revealed

By Neuroskeptic | December 19, 2017 2:57 am

A parasitic fungus that controls the behaviour of fruit flies has, for the first time, been studied in the lab.

In a fascinating preprint posted on Biorxiv, researchers Carolyn Elya et al. report how they discovered the pathogen in the wild near Berkeley, California. The fungus belongs to the species Entomophthora muscae, which is already known to prey on various species of wild flies. But Elya et al. found a way to infect laboratory flies with the disease, thus allowing them to study the fungus in unprecedented detail.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: animals, movies, papers, select, Top Posts

The Sad World of Uncited Papers

By Neuroskeptic | December 17, 2017 6:02 am

A Nature News feature examines academic papers that have never been cited.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, science, select, Top Posts

The Remarkable “Curvature Blindness” Illusion

By Neuroskeptic | December 8, 2017 2:54 am

A new optical illusion has been discovered, and it’s really quite striking. The strange effect is called the ‘curvature blindness’ illusion, and it’s described in a new paper from psychologist Kohske Takahashi of Chukyo University, Japan.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, select, Top Posts

Predicting Suicide: Return of a Scandal (Part 2)

By Neuroskeptic | December 5, 2017 3:48 pm

In the first post in this series, I looked at the work of Swedish psychiatrist Lars Thorell, who has developed a test which, he claims, is able to predict suicides in depressed patients. Thorell’s test is called electrodermal orientation reactivity (aka electrodermal hyporeactivity), and while Thorell’s work on the technique goes back to the 1980s, it has recently been commercialized by a company called Emotra AB, who named the product EDORĀ®.


Previously, I expressed scepticism over the published evidence purporting to show that electrodermal orientation reactivity can predict suicide. In this post, I’m going to examine Emotra and their claims about EDORĀ®.

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The Bottom of the Barrel of Science Fraud

By Neuroskeptic | November 30, 2017 11:16 am

Sometimes, scientific misconduct is so blatant as to be comical. I recently came across an example of this on Twitter. The following is an image from a paper published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry C:


As pointed out on PubPeer, this image – which is supposed to be an electron microscope image of some carbon dot (CD) nanoparticles – is an obvious fake. The “dots” are identical, and have clearly been cut-and-pasted. Where one copy has been placed over the top of another, the overlap is quite visible.

It would be charitable to even call this ‘scientific’ fraud.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, science, select, Top Posts

Predicting Suicide: Return of a Scandal (Part 1)

By Neuroskeptic | November 6, 2017 2:19 pm

I recently decided to revisit a 2014 case that regular readers might remember.


Back in 2014, I posted about a terrible piece of statistical ‘spin’ that somehow made it into the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychiatric Research. The offending authors, led by Swedish psychiatrist Lars H. Thorell, had run a study to determine whether an electrodermal hyporeactivity test was able to predict suicide and suicidal behaviour in depressed inpatients.

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“Facephenes”: Brain Stimulation Creates Phantasmal Faces

By Neuroskeptic | November 4, 2017 2:45 pm

Have you ever seen a face on a football?

In a new paper, neuroscientists Gerwin Schalk et al. report that brain stimulation caused a man to experience strange hallucinations. The patient saw faces in everyday objects, including an orange soccer ball and a featureless box. The researchers coined the word “facephenes” to refer to these face-like perceptions.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: faces, papers, select, Top Posts


No brain. No gain.

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