fMRI of the Amygdala: All In Vein?

By Neuroskeptic | May 24, 2015 5:44 am

Neuroscientists might need to rethink much of what’s known about the amygdala, a small brain region that’s been the focus of a lot of research. That’s according to a new paper just published in Scientific Reports: fMRI measurements of amygdala activation are confounded by stimulus correlated signal fluctuation in nearby veins draining distant brain regions.

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What Can “Lived Experience” Teach Neuroscientists?

By Neuroskeptic | May 20, 2015 7:06 am

A provocative paper says that neuroscientists who research mental health problems ought to listen to the views of people who have experienced those conditions.

The piece, from Australian authors Anthony Stratford and colleagues, is published in The Psychiatric Quarterly.

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P-Hacking: A Talk and Further Thoughts

By Neuroskeptic | May 18, 2015 12:14 pm


A week ago I gave a talk to Marcus Munafo’s group at the University of Bristol on the subject of P-hacking.

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How Big Is The Brain’s Penis Area?

By Neuroskeptic | May 14, 2015 7:21 pm


Rolf Degen has an interesting post on the question of how much of the brain is devoted to processing touch stimuli from the penis.

The Fake Homunculus: A new book about sex depicts a beefed-up representation of the penis in the human brain

Everybody has once already seen a picture of the Sensory Homunculus – a humanized image of the relative amount of cerebral cortex space devoted to processing the tactile input from the different body parts. It appears grotesquely disfigured, because some parts like the lips or the hands commandeer disproportionately much cortical capacity.

But, Degen says, a new book claims that bashful scientists suppressed the truth about the enormity of the penis area of the cortex.

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Inflated False Positives in fMRI: SPM, FSL and AFNI

By Neuroskeptic | May 7, 2015 5:52 am

Back in 2012 I discussed an alarming paper showing very high rates of false positives in single-subject fMRI analyses. Swedish researchers Anders Eklund and colleagues had tested the performance of one popular software tool for the statistical analysis of fMRI data, SPM8.

But what about other analysis packages?

Now, Eklund et al. are back with a new study, which has not been published yet, but was presented last month at the International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI). This time around they compared three popular packages, SPM8, FSL 5.0.7, and AFNI – and they show that all three produce too many false positives. Edit: the conference paper is available here.

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Spontaneous Events Drive Brain Functional Connectivity?

By Neuroskeptic | May 2, 2015 1:01 pm

A new study claims that Functional Connectivity in MRI Is Driven by Spontaneous BOLD Events

The researchers, Thomas Allan and colleagues from the University of Nottingham (one of the birthplaces of MRI), say that their results challenge the assumption that correlations in neural activity between ‘networks’ of brain regions reflect slow, steady low frequency oscillations within those networks. Instead, they report that the network connectivity is the result of occasional ‘spikes’ of coordinated activation that last only a short time.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: fMRI, head motion, papers, select, Top Posts

Sexist Peer Review and The Role of Editors

By Neuroskeptic | April 30, 2015 4:46 pm


Open access scientific publishing giant PLoS is under fire after an anonymous peer reviewer commissioned by one of their journals advised the (female) authors to “find one or two male biologists” to help improve their manuscript.

The two women are Fiona Ingleby and Megan Head – who, as it happens, I recently interviewed for the PLoS Neuro blog on an unrelated topic. (I should note that PLoS paid me for that review and for the three others I’ve written for them. I have also peer reviewed for PLoS ONE.)

Retraction Watch has more on the case. There’s been a lot said about this on Twitter and elsewhere, and some people have raised the point that if the reviewer were not anonymous, they might have felt more accountable, and would not have written these things.

But to me this misses the point. Anonymous peer review doesn’t mean that no-one is accountable: the editors should be.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: politics, science, select, Top Posts

No Reason To Think That Thinking “Fuels Brain Cancer”

By Neuroskeptic | April 27, 2015 3:02 pm

This week has seen a flurry of alarming headlines suggesting that thinking can make brain cancer grow quicker. For example:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: media, papers, select, Top Posts

Rorschach Tests at the Nuremberg Trials

By Neuroskeptic | April 25, 2015 4:43 am

After the fall of Nazi Germany, the victorious Allies sought to bring the leaders of the Third Reich to justice in the form of the well-known Nuremberg Trials. Less famous are the attempts by  psychologists to understand the Nazi mind in the form of psychological evaluations of the Nuremberg defendants.

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Is Synesthesia A Brain Disorder?

By Neuroskeptic | April 21, 2015 5:08 pm

In a provocative review paper just published, French neuroscientists Jean-Michel Hupé and Michel Dojat question the assumption that synesthesia is a neurological disorder.

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