Brain scanning is big at the moment. In particular, the technique of functional MRI (fMRI) has become hugely popular within neuroscience. But now a group of big-name neuroimaging researchers, led by Russ Poldrack, have taken a skeptical look at the field, in a new preprint (currently under peer review) called Scanning the Horizon: Future challenges for neuroimaging research.
It’s widely said that anonymity on the internet helps to promote aggressive, low quality or trolling comments. On this view, the anonymous commenter, knowing they can’t be held accountable, is free to do things that they would be ashamed to do under their real name.
Seven years ago, neuroscientists Ed Vul and colleagues made waves with their paper on ‘voodoo correlations’ in social neuroscience. Now, in a new paper, historian of medicine Cornelius Borck looks back on the voodoo correlations debate and asks whether neuroscience might be likened to voodoo in another sense.
What happens when a study produces evidence that doesn’t support a scientific hypothesis?
Scientists have a few different ways of describing this event. Sometimes, the results of such a study are called ‘null results’. They may also be called ‘negative results’. In my opinion, both of these terms are useful, although I slightly prefer ‘null‘ on the grounds that the term ‘negative’ tends to draw an unfavorable contrast with ‘positive’ results. Whereas, my impression is that ‘null’ makes it clear that these are results in their own right, as they are evidence consistent with the null hypothesis.
Yet there’s another way of talking about evidence inconsistent with a hypothesis – such results are sometimes treated as not being results at all. In this way of speaking, to “get a result” in a certain study means to find a positive result. To “get no results” or “find nothing” means to find only null results – which, on this view, have no value of their own, serving only to mark the absence of some (positive) findings.
“The brain is a three dimensional object.” It would seem that this is one of the least controversial facts about the brain, something we can all agree on. But now, in a curious new paper, researchers Arturo Tozzi and James F. Peters suggest that the brain might have an extra dimension: Towards a fourth spatial dimension of brain activity
In a fascinating new paper, researchers Hongmi Lee and Brice A. Kuhl report that they can decode faces from neural activity. Armed with a brain scanner, they can reconstruct which face a participant has in mind. It’s a cool technique that really seems to fit the description of ‘mind reading’ – although the method’s accuracy is only modest.
Over at Retraction Watch, we learn about the strange case of the author who is preparing to sue a journal for retracting his paper.
In 2014, Jonathan Bishop published an article called Transforming the UK Home Office into a Department for Homeland Security in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (JHSEM), a journal operated by De Gruyter publishers. In April this year, JHSEM retracted Bishop’s piece, saying in explanation that “The journal re-reviewed the above-listed article and concluded that the article does not fit with the journal.”
Are humans natural, irrational optimists? According to many psychologists, humans show a fundamental optimism bias, a tendency to underestimate our chances of suffering negative events. It’s said that when thinking about harmful events, such as contracting cancer, most people believe that their risk is lower than that of ‘the average person’. So, on average, people rate themselves as safer than the average. Moreover, people are also said to show biased belief updating. Faced with evidence that the risk of a negative outcome is higher than they believed, people don’t increase their personal risk estimates properly.
A curious case report from Italian neuropsychologists Nicoletta Beschin and colleagues: Compulsive foreign language syndrome: a clinical observation not a mystery
The authors describe a 50 year old Italian man, JC, who turned into a ‘caricature’ of a Frenchman after a brain injury caused by a vascular anomaly. JC insisted in speaking French at all times, even though his knowledge of the language was rather poor (he had learned it at school, but not practiced it for decades.) What’s more, JC not only spoke French, he acted stereotypically ‘French’ too: “he speaks it in a fast pace with exaggerated intonation using a movie-like prosody and posing as a typical caricature of a French man.”
Have you read this sentence before? Perhaps it feels strangely familiar? The experience of déjà vu is a common one, but in rare cases, it can become a disorder. In a fascinating new Cortex paper, French psychologists Julie Bertrand and colleagues discuss the phenomenon of pathological déjà vu.