The Problem With Michael LaCour’s Rebuttal

By Neuroskeptic | June 1, 2015 4:12 am

The hottest story in science over the past couple of weeks has been the accusations of fraud against UCLA political science PhD student Michael LaCour.

The allegations were posted online on May 19th and they concern one of LaCour’s papers, published in Science, called When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality. On May 28th the paper was retracted on the request of LaCour’s co-author, Donald Green, but LaCour stands by the data and disagreed with the retraction.

There have been lots of twists and turns in this case – LaCour has admitted lying about some aspects of the data collection. In this post however I’ll focus on the data and on LaCour’s rebuttal to the original accusations, which he posted on May 29th.

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The Search For Reward Prediction Errors in the Brain

By Neuroskeptic | May 31, 2015 7:39 am

A new paper examines how the brain keeps track of positive and negative outcomes: No unified reward prediction error in local field potentials from the human nucleus accumbens

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: EEG, fMRI, papers, select, Top Posts

What To Do About A Slow Peer Reviewer?

By Neuroskeptic | May 27, 2015 6:58 am

writing_poetryAn amusing editorial in the neuroscience journal Cortex discusses the excuses scientists use to explain why they didn’t submit their peer reviews on time:

Following our nagging for late reviews, we learned that one reviewer had to take their cat to the vet, another was busy buying Christmas presents, one was planning their holidays, an unfortunate one had their office broken into […] others agreed to review whereas indeed they really intended to withdraw, or were just too busy to reply.

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

Echoborgs: Psychologists Bring You Face To Face With A Chat-bot

By Neuroskeptic | May 25, 2015 12:40 pm

Last year I blogged about the creepy phenomenon of cyranoids. A cyranoid is a person who speaks the words of another person. With the help of a hidden earpiece, a ‘source’ whispers words into the ear of a ‘shadower’ , who repeats them. In research published last year, British psychologists Kevin Corti and Alex Gillespie showed that cyranoids are hard to spot: if you were speaking to one, you probably wouldn’t know it, even if the source was an adult and the shadower a child, or vice versa.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, select, Top Posts

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


No brain. No gain.

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