Can Monkeys Get Depressed?

By Neuroskeptic | March 20, 2015 5:19 pm

According to a new study from Chinese neuroscientists Fan Xu and colleagues, some monkeys can experience depression in a similar way to humans.
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Is Science Broken? Let’s Ask Karl Popper

By Neuroskeptic | March 15, 2015 8:51 am

On Tuesday I’ll be speaking at a debate in University College London (UCL) on the topic of “Is Science Broken?” I’ll be arguing that it is.


One of the other people on the panel is UCL neuroscientist Sam Schwarzkopf, who on his (alter ego) Devil’s Neuroscientist blog (DNS) recently argued that science is not broken. He makes several points but here’s the nub:

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To Apply Or Not To Apply For That Grant?

By Neuroskeptic | March 13, 2015 1:05 pm


When should scientists apply for grants? Does spending more time writing applications pay off in the long run? A paper published in PLoS ONE this week examined the eternal question: To apply or not to apply?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, science, select, Top Posts

Debating Models of Preregistration

By Neuroskeptic | March 13, 2015 6:17 am

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Publication Bias Workshop in London, organized by the NC3Rs, a British scientific organization.


The meeting was organized around the question of whether preregistration can be a solution for the problem of publication bias in medical research. I believe that it can, and I’ve been writing about this for several years.

I didn’t speak at the workshop, but the cause of preregistration was amply represented by speakers including Chris Chambers of the journal Cortex and Trish Groves of the BMJ.

However, in the formal debate which concluded the first day, our side lost support in the audience vote by a fair margin. Whereas before the debate, a show of hands showed the great majority of the attendees to be in favor of preregistration, the vote after the debate revealed that many had changed their minds. What happened?

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What Happens When An Academic Publisher Stops Publishing?

By Neuroskeptic | March 11, 2015 1:44 pm

What happens when an academic publisher stops publishing? What can scientists do when they get a manuscript accepted, only to find that the journal has become inactive?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: blogging, papers, PIE, select, Top Posts

Is Neuroscience Based On Biology?

By Neuroskeptic | March 7, 2015 9:21 am

There is a popular view that all of the natural sciences can be arranged in a chain or ladder according to the complexity of their subjects.

On this view, physics forms the base of the ladder because it deals with the simplest building-blocks of matter, atoms and subatomic particles. Chemistry is next up because it studies interacting atoms i.e. molecules. Biology studies complex collections of molecules, i.e. cells. Then comes neuroscience which deals with a complex collection of interacting cells – the brain. Psychology, perhaps, can be seen as the next level above neuroscience, because psychology studies brains interacting with each other and with the environment.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: philosophy, science, select, Top Posts

Was Neuroscience’s Most Famous Amnesiac, “HM”, A Victim of Medical Error?

By Neuroskeptic | March 5, 2015 2:01 pm

According to a new paper, one of neuroscience’s most famous case-studies came about as a result of a serious medical blunder.

HenryMolaisonHenry Molaison (1926 – 2008), better known as HM, was an American man who developed a dramatic form of amnesia after receiving surgery that removed part of the temporal lobes of his brain. The 1953 operation was intended to treat HM’s epilepsy, but it had the side effect of leaving him unable to form new memories.

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Single-Unit Recordings Reveal Limitations of fMRI MVPA?

By Neuroskeptic | March 2, 2015 3:06 am

Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) is an increasingly popular approach for analyzing the results of fMRI scanning experiments that measure brain activity. MVPA searches for patterns of activation that correlate with a particular mental state. This is called ‘decoding’ neural activity.

Now a new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience from Caltech neuroscientists Julien Dubois et al. reports that MVPA is unable to decode certain kinds of information, even though single-unit recordings confirm that the information is present in brain activity.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: animals, fMRI, methods, papers, select, Top Posts

What are the Unsolved Problems of Neuroscience?

By Neuroskeptic | February 28, 2015 3:34 am

In an interesting short paper just published in Trends in Cognitive Science, Caltech neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs offers his thoughts on The Unsolved Problems of Neuroscience.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, science, select, Top Posts

Right-Wing Brain Surgeons: The Case of Surgical Neurology International

By Neuroskeptic | February 22, 2015 7:35 am

Last week we learned about the strange goings-on at two journals edited by the autism researcher, Johnny Matson. Matson and his team ‘stepped down’ after accusations of improper peer review processes.

This reminded me of another case of unusual behavior at an academic journal: Surgical Neurology International (SNI), published by Medknow/Wolters Kluwer. I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while, and now seems like a good time.

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