A new paper offers a broad challenge to a certain kind of ‘grand theory’ about the brain. According to the authors, Federico E. Turkheimer and colleagues, it is problematic to build models of brain function that rely on ‘strong emergence’.
What, if anything, is the function of adult neurogenesis in humans? Does neurogenesis even exist in our adult brains, or does it shut down during childhood?
The debate over human neurogenesis has been one of the most prominent disputes in 21st century neuroscience. Just last year, two opposing papers appeared in leading journals, one claiming firm evidence of ongoing neurogenesis in the adult human dentate gyrus, while the other study came to the opposite conclusion. The fact that adult neurogenesis is reliably seen in rodents only adds to the confusion. If rats and mice have it, and we don’t, what does that mean?
Bullying students into providing the “right” results: research misconduct by proxy?
This is probably among the worst but receives little attention
— Simon Eickhoff (@INM7_ISN) January 19, 2019
Do you believe that people’s eyes emit an invisible beam of force?
According to a rather fun paper in PNAS, you probably do, on some level, believe that. The paper is called Implicit model of other people’s visual attention as an invisible, force-carrying beam projecting from the eyes.
This time last year I wrote(1,2) about a Swedish company called Emotra. Emotra make a device that is supposed to measure suicide risk in people with mental illness. The test is called EDOR® and according to Emotra’s website and materials, it has been shown to be highly effective. Last year, I explained why I disagree with that assessment.
Now, a year later, I’m revisting the EDOR® story, because there have been a number of developments that I find quite disturbing. It seems that EDOR® has now found users and is, or soon will be, in actual commercial use in a number of hospitals.
An intriguing new study uses the 2016 US Presidential election as a tool to examine the organization of human memory.
The results show that events that occur around the same time are linked in memory. Remembering one past event tends to trigger the recall of other memories from that time. This chronological clustering makes intuitive sense, but it’s a theory that’s been debated in psychology for a while, under the name of the temporal-contiguity effect (TCE).
According to the authors of the new study, Mitchell G. Uitvlugt and M. Karl Healey, most previous studies of the temporal-contiguity effect have relied on memories created in the lab (e.g. by getting people to read an ordered list of items). Instead, Uitvlugt and Healey used real-world memories.
The science story of the past week was the claim from Chinese scientist He Jiankui that he has created gene-edited human babies. Prof. He reports that two twin girls have been born carrying modifications of the gene CCR5, which is intended to protect them against future HIV risk.
It’s far from clear yet whether the gene-editing that He described has actually taken place – no data has yet been presented. The very prospect of genetically-modifying human beings has, however, led to widespread concern, with He’s claims being described as “monstrous“, “crazy” and “unethical”.
All of which got me wondering: could there ever be a neuroscience experiment which attracted the same level of condemnation?
What should a doctor do if a dying patient confesses to killing people decades ago? This is the question posed by a fascinating case report in the Journal of Clinical Ethics, from New Zealand-based authors Laura Tincknell and colleagues.
Earlier this year, I posted on how Sergio Della Salla, the editor of Cortex, criticized a headline-grabbing JAMA paper that had reported neuropsychological abnormalities in US embassy staff exposed to the mysterious Havana ‘sonic attack’. According to Della Salla, the evidence presented didn’t suggest enduring cognitive deficits in the victims.
Now, Della Salla is back (along with co-authors) for round two with a new paper, called Cognitive symptoms in US government personnel in Cuba: The mending is worse than the hole. He argues that a new clarification of the JAMA paper’s methodology makes even less sense than the original.