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

Do We Need An Adoption Service for Orphan Data?

By Neuroskeptic | November 1, 2017 6:05 pm

Having recently left an academic post, I’ve been thinking about what will happen to the data that I collected during my previous role that remains unpublished. Will it, like so much data, end up stuck in the limbo of the proverbial ‘file drawer’?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: FixingScience, science, select, Top Posts

The Voodoo Curse of Circular fMRI Analysis

By Neuroskeptic | October 28, 2017 4:12 pm

Remember the ‘voodoo’ fMRI controversy? Well, I just came across a new voodoo-ish paper – just in time for Halloween.

The study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, comes from Franziska Plessow and colleagues of Boston. The main claim is that a dose of oxytocin reduced the response of “reward-related food motivation brain regions” to pictures of high-calorie foods, suggesting that the hormone might be of use in the treatment of obesity.

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“Hyper Brains”? High Intelligence and Health

By Neuroskeptic | October 22, 2017 5:33 am

A few weeks ago I blogged about the idea that high-IQ people suffer from an inability to communicate with less gifted folk. Now, a new paper claims that very intelligent people are more prone to mental illnesses and allergies.

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Problematic Neuropeptides And Statistics (PNAS)

By Neuroskeptic | October 20, 2017 11:17 am

Back in May I discussed a paper published in PNAS which, I claimed, was using scientific terminology in a sloppy way. The authors, Pearce et al., used the word “neuropeptides” to refer to six molecules, but three of them weren’t neuropeptides at all. The authors acknowledged this minor error and issued a correction.


Now, it emerges that there may be more serious problems with the PNAS paper. In a letter published last week, researchers Patrick Jern and colleagues say that the statistics used by Pearce et al. were flawed.

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A Parade of Scientific Mice

By Neuroskeptic | October 15, 2017 2:07 pm

Recently I was reading a neuroscience paper and was struck by the cuteness of the two mice that formed part of Figure 1:


So I decided to look further and collect a montage of scientific mice. All of these drawings are taken from peer-reviewed scientific papers. As you can see, the styles vary greatly. Some mice are little more than circles with ears, while others look ready to leap off the page in search of cheese:


I should note that I didn’t include mice found in Graphical Abstracts in the image above. These abstracts are a new development, intended to make papers more accessible, and they often feature artwork even more cartoon-like than the average scientific drawing. See this representative example:


There are many more like this.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: animals, funny, select, Top Posts

Is Parkinson’s A Prion Disease?

By Neuroskeptic | October 14, 2017 2:45 pm

The Journal of Neuroscience recently featured a debate over the hypothesis that Parkinson’s disease is, at least in some cases, caused by a prion-like mechanism – misfolded proteins that spread from neuron to neuron.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: genes, papers, select, Top Posts

“Happy Chemical” Discovered In Beer?

By Neuroskeptic | October 7, 2017 6:15 am

A curious flurry of headlines in praise of beer appeared this week:

Beer really DOES make you happier! Key molecule boosts brain’s reward centre

Drinking Beer Makes You Really Happy, Confirms Awesome New Study

Drinking beer can make you happy, researchers claim

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Is It Time To “Redefine Statistical Significance”?

By Neuroskeptic | October 3, 2017 8:33 am


A new paper in Nature Human Behaviour has generated lots of debate. In Redefine Statistical Significance, authors Daniel J. Benjamin and colleagues suggest changing the convention that p-values below 0.05 are called ‘significant’. Instead, they suggest, the cut-off should be set at 0.005 – a stricter criterion.

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No brain. No gain.

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