Multivoxel Pattern Analysis (MVPA) is the latest big thing in the neuroimaging world. MVPA is a multivariate statistical technique that can be applied to fMRI brain scan results as an alternative to conventional univariate methods of finding brain activation.
Neuroscientists love MVPA for two reasons: first, it offers more ‘blobs for your buck’ – it often detects neural signals that don’t show up on conventional scans. Secondly, it seems to offer a way to go beyond merely detecting and localizing activity and actually provide insights into how information is represented in the brain. MVPA promises to not just locate but also ‘decode’ the brain’s activity, one of the Holy Grails of modern neuroscience.
Medium recently published a piece by neuroscientist Jim Coan called Negative Psychology, in which Coan criticized what he sees as a recent, problematic trend towards overly-critical discourse around psychology, especially on blogs and social media.
Moreover, Coan cited me (namely, this post of mine) as part of this unhelpful ‘negative psychology’ movement.
What if it were possible to measure your conscious experience, in real time, using a brain scanner? Neuroscientists Christoph Reichert and colleagues report that they have done just this, using fMRI – although in a limited fashion.
When we’re drowsy, and on the point of falling asleep, our awareness of the outside world tends to dim. But a fascinating new paper reports that, for most people, it’s the left side of the world that dims the most.
Three weeks ago I covered the story of Jens Förster, the German social psychologist who was accused of scientific misconduct after statisticians noted unusual patterns in his published data. More evidence has come to light since then, but there are still no clear answers as to what really happened.
In this post, I examine the data and conclude that data fabrication – whoever is responsible for it – is the only plausible scenario.
There was nothing special about Albert Einstein’s brain.
Nothing that modern neuroscience can detect, anyway. This is the message of a provocative article by Pace University psychologist Terence Hines, just published in Brain and Cognition: Neuromythology of Einstein’s brain
Zen Faulkes of the Neurodojo and Better Posters blogs (the former being established way back in 2002!) has just published an article in major neuroscience journal Neuron on the rise of blogs and social media as forums for scientific debate: The Vacuum Shouts Back: Postpublication Peer Review on Social Media
A man developed a passionate love for the music of Johnny Cash after being implanted with a brain stimulation device. The unique story is told in a case report in the Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience journal, published on the 6th May.
As you might have noticed, I blog (and tweet and comment) under a pseudonym. Recently, I defended the use of pseudonymity and anonymity in science in a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal – published under my pseudonym.
So I was, at first, alarmed to see that Italian physicist Lorenzo Iorio has just published a Letter on A New Type of Misconduct in the Field of the Physical Sciences: The Case of the Pseudonyms Used by I. Ciufolini…
“He’s saying that scientists using pseudonyms is a form of misconduct!” I thought to myself.
It turns out that the story is rather more complicated – and very bizarre. The background here is that many astrophysicists are trying to measure the gravitomagnetic frame-dragging effect, one of the most interesting predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The predicted effect is tiny, so it’s very difficult to measure. One experiment that has tried to detect this effect is called Laser Geodynamics Satellites (LAGEOS).
According to the new piece, the leader of LAGEOS, Italian physicist Ignazio Ciufolini, published two manuscripts, each criticizing one of the rivals to LAGEOS. These rivals were other projects that tried (and seemingly succeeded) in measuring frame-dragging. Ciufolini didn’t sign these critiques with his own name, however. He used two different pseudonyms: “G. Felici” and “G. Forst”.
“Felici” and “Forst” each used a Yahoo email address (i.e. not an academic one), and each listed as a contact address an institution that does not in fact exist.
“Felici” and “Forst” published their criticisms in 2007. Last year (i.e. six years later), the moderators of the arXiv site, where the manuscripts had been posted, outed Ciufolini as the true author of both, dubbing him “a physicist based in Italy who is unwilling to submit articles under his own name” and who “repeatedly submits inappropriate articles under pseudonyms, in violation of arXiv policies.” (For more on this saga, see this blog.)
In my view, this is misconduct, not however because Ciufolini wrote under pseudonyms, but because he went further and used sockpuppets. A sockpuppet is a pseudonymous identity that lies about its own identity, most commonly by pretending to be the real identity of a non-existent person. The problem, then, was that Ciufolini’s pseudonyms did not appear to be pseudonyms.
Had Ciufolini posted his articles under a blatant pseudonym, like, er, say, “GravitomagnetoSkeptic”, he would not have done anything wrong. Readers would have been able to decide how much credence to give to someone who writes as “GravitomagnetoSkeptic”. Readers could also have judged for themselves the probability that “GravitomagnetoSkeptic” was in fact Ciufolini.
Instead, by means of using sockpuppets, Ciufolini deceived readers about the authorship of the papers, claiming that they were written by unrelated third-parties, when in fact he wrote them. Had he merely used a blatant pseudonym, he would not have lied – he would just have chosen not to claim authorship. So, in my view, Iorio’s interesting Letter would have been better titled:
“A new type of misconduct in the field of the physical sciences: The case of the sockpuppets used by I. Ciufolini…”
Iorio, L. (2014). A new type of misconduct in the field of the physical sciences: The case of the pseudonyms used by I. Ciufolini to anonymously criticize other people’s works on arXiv Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology DOI: 10.1002/asi.23238