Psychiatric drugs come in many kinds: there are antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medications, and more. But what all of these categories have in common is that they’re anti- something. This is how we classify these drugs – by what they treat.
Except there’s a problem – very few psychiatric drugs are only used to treat one thing. Take “antipsychotics”. They’re used in psychosis, but they’re also a key tool in the treatment of mania, a different disorder entirely. Many of these drugs are also used to help treat depression, aggression, and more. Plus, it’s not even clear that they treat psychosis per se – some people argue that they work by non-specifically suppressing or masking the symptoms.
So should we call them “antipsychotics” at all? If not, what are they?
In a new Nature paper, Berkely neuroscientists Alexander G. Huth and colleagues present a ‘semantic atlas’ of the human brain. Huth et al. have mapped which brain areas respond to words, according to the semantics (meanings) of each word. It turns out that these maps are highly similar across individuals – which could have implications for ‘mind reading’ technology.
Back in 2013, I wondered if we would ever discover the neural basis of spontaneous thoughts. Why, I asked, do certain ideas just “pop” into our minds at particular times? Now a new paper published in Neuroimage, Canadian neuroscientists Melissa Ellamil and colleagues examines this issue.
Does the thought of money make people more selfish? Last year, I blogged about the theory of ‘money priming’, the idea that mere reminders of money can influence people’s attitudes and behaviors. The occasion for that post was a study showing no evidence of the claimed money priming phenomenon, published by psychologists Rohrer, Pashler, and Harris. Rohrer et al.’s paper was accompanied by a rebuttal from Kathleen Vohs, who argued that 10 years of research and 165 studies establish that money does exert a priming effect.
First, compared to neutral primes, people reminded of money are less interpersonally attuned. They are not prosocial, caring, or warm. They eschew interdependence. Second, people reminded of money shift into professional, business, and work mentality.
Now, a new set of researchers have entered the fray with a rebuttal of Vohs.
In a new paper called Molecular fMRI, MIT researchers Benjamin B. Bartelle, Ali Barandov, and Alan Jasanoff discuss technological advances that could provide neuroscientists with new tools for mapping the brain.
A Sokal-style hoax philosophy paper has triggered much debate over academic standards in the field.
The intentionally nonsensical spoof article, signed by ‘Benedetta Tripodi’ but really the work of Philippe Huneman and Anouk Barberousse, was accepted and published by the journal Badiou Studies (“a multi-lingual, peer-reviewed journal”) which is devoted to the work of French philosopher Alain Badiou. It’s since been retracted. Cue hand-wringing.
On Twitter, someone linked me to this: the Neuromarketing World Forum (NWF) 2016, which has just taken place in Dubai (which the conference organizers call “the Neuromarketing Capital of the World”). It was a three-day event dedicated to the application of neuroscience in the world of marketing and business. Attendees were taught about how brain science could help them understand what consumers want and how to sell to them more effectively.
But where, in all this, were the neuroscientists?
Does ice cream cause drownings? Let’s think about this statistically. Consider that, in any given city, daily sales of ice cream are, most likely, positively correlated with daily rates of drownings.
Now, no matter how strong this correlation is, it doesn’t really mean that ice cream is dangerous. Rather, the association exists because of a ‘confound’ variable. In this case it’s temperature: on sunny days, people tend to eat more ice cream and they also tend to go swimming more often, thus risking drowning. The ice cream/drownings correlation would cease to exist once you take temperature into account. This means that ice cream has no ‘incremental validity’ over temperature: it doesn’t add anything to our ability to predict downing, above what we can predict from temperature.
Controlling for confounds is a widely-used technique in science. However, accordng to researchers Jake Westfall and Tal Yarkoni, there’s a major pitfall associated with the method. In a new paper, they warn that Statistically Controlling for Confounding Constructs Is Harder than You Think