The Science of the Rorschach Blots

By Neuroskeptic | February 20, 2017 9:56 am

When the psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach blotted ink onto paper to produce a series of abstract patterns, could he have known that nearly 100 years later, the Rorschach test would be a household name?


Although the use of the Rorschach to diagnose mental illness is mostly a thing of the past, research on the test continues. Last week, two new papers were published on the Rorschach blots, including a fractal analysis of the images themselves and a brain scanning study using fMRI.

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The Fantasy of Connecting Two Spinal Cords

By Neuroskeptic | February 17, 2017 2:03 pm

A peculiar new paper proposes the idea of “connecting two spinal cords as a way of sharing information between two brains”. The author is Portuguese psychiatrist Amílcar Silva-dos-Santos and the paper appears in Frontiers in Psychology.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: animals, papers, select, Top Posts, woo

Authorship Means Responsibility

By Neuroskeptic | February 13, 2017 4:28 pm

Last week Retraction Watch covered a case of a psychology paper that was retracted after it emerged that the graduate student who collected the data had faked the results.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethics, papers, science, select, Top Posts

Science Has A Plagiarism Problem

By Neuroskeptic | February 3, 2017 11:58 am

plagiarism_neuroRetraction Watch reports on three scientific papers (1,2,3) that have been retracted or deleted after I reported that they were plagiarized.

Neuroskeptic became suspicious about the three unrelated papers – about food chemistry, heart disease, and the immune system and cancer – after scanning them with plagiarism software. After alerting the journals, two issued formal retractions for the papers – but neither specifies plagiarism as the reason.

These three retractions represent the fruits of a personal project (or perhaps it was a quixotic quest) I carried out last year. Over the space of four months, I reported about 30 cases of plagiarism in review papers to various journals, with the help of Turnitin plagiarism detection software.

Every case I reported was a serious one. The percentage of unoriginal text ranged from 44-90%, with an average of about 65%. What’s more, I didn’t count overlap with the authors’ own work (i.e. self-plagiarism) as this is sometimes seen as less serious. Likewise, I only looked at review papers, because plagiarism is arguably less serious in experimental papers when the data is new.

Yet despite the severity of the problems I reported, most journals never replied to my emails. A few did acknowledge my concerns, and promised to investigate, but nearly a year later, only three papers have been retracted. I don’t know of any expressions of concern or corrections either.

Eventually I got tired of being ignored, and abandoned my one-man crusade against copy-and-paste.

This leaves 27 papers, that I know for a fact to be largely plagiarized, remaining in the scientific literature – and there must be thousands more out there. If I had to estimate the proportion of review papers that contain severe plagiarism, I’d put it at something like 10-15%. Maybe we should call them recycle papers instead of reviews?

I’m not sure how to proceed with this project. I’m happy to share my list of offending papers with anyone who thinks they can do something useful with it, and I may decide to publish it at some point. But will this achieve anything? Journals are meant to uphold the standards of science. If they don’t care about plagiarism, what can anyone else hope to do?

Here’s why I did it:

Plagiarists steal opportunity from their honest peers. In science, for instance, jobs, promotions and funding are assigned largely on the basis of the publication records of the candidates. There are not enough of these things to go around. So whenever a plagiarist wins one of these prizes on the strength of their unfairly inflated record, someone else misses out.

This is why I don’t like plagiarists. I don’t take pleasure in anyone’s ‘downfall’, but I look at it this way: for every disgraced plagiarist, an honest researcher gets a job, or gets funded, or gets promoted.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: blogging, ethics, papers, science, select, Top Posts

Split Brain, Undivided Consciousness?

By Neuroskeptic | January 31, 2017 6:12 am

A new paper challenges a decades-old theory in neuroscience: Split brain: divided perception but undivided consciousness

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, philosophy, science, select, Top Posts

When You’re Drowsy, Is Your Brain Partly Asleep?

By Neuroskeptic | January 28, 2017 2:28 am

When we’re feeling very tired, we sometimes remark that we’re “half-asleep”. But is this more than just a figure of speech? A new paper suggests that parts of our brain may actually ‘fall asleep’ even while we’re still awake.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: EEG, papers, select, Top Posts

Predatory Publishers: Why I’ll Miss Jeffrey Beall

By Neuroskeptic | January 25, 2017 11:47 am

Last week, we learned that Scholarly Open Access, Jeffrey Beall’s website and blog, had gone down. Beall, an academic librarian at the University of Denver, has earned fame, and notoriety, for his list of what he calls ‘predatory’ open access publishers and journals.


It’s still not clear what led to the demise of Beall’s blog. There were rumors of possible legal threats. The University of Denver eventually released a statement saying that Beall “has decided to no longer maintain or publish his research or blog on open access journals and ‘predatory publishers.'” Beall himself has yet to comment, beyond a gnomic remark to Nature News that “my blog is now unpublished”. This post by Emil Karlsson is the best overview of the story.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: blogging, ethics, science, select, Top Posts

Op, Op, Op. The Neuroscience of Gangnam Style?

By Neuroskeptic | January 16, 2017 3:29 pm

“Our results revealed characteristic patterns of brain activity associated with Gangnam Style”. So say the authors of a new paper called Neural correlates of the popular music phenomenon.

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What Can fMRI Tell Us About Mental Illness?

By Neuroskeptic | January 14, 2017 10:53 am

A remarkable and troubling new paper: Addressing reverse inference in psychiatric neuroimaging: Meta-analyses of task-related brain activation in common mental disorders

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Two Manifestos for Better Science

By Neuroskeptic | January 11, 2017 4:46 am


Two new papers urge scientists to make research more reproducible.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: FixingScience, fMRI, papers, select, Top Posts


No brain. No gain.

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