How Diederik Stapel Became A Science Fraud

By Neuroskeptic | January 20, 2015 5:58 pm

Two years ago, Dutch science fraudster Diederik Stapel published a book, Ontsporing (“Derailment”), describing how he became one of the world’s leading social psychologists, before falling from grace when it emerged that he’d fabricated the data in dozens of papers.


Stapel wrote Ontsporing in Dutch, but now his story has been translated into English, under the title of Faking Science – thanks to the efforts of Nick Brown. Neuroskeptic readers may remember Brown for his critical analyses of work in the field of positive psychology. I was one of the proofreaders for the translation. (Edit: the translation is free to download – so you won’t be supporting Stapel financially by reading the book.)

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Machine Learning: Exceeding Chance Level By Chance

By Neuroskeptic | January 18, 2015 7:29 am

A simple statistical misunderstanding is leading many neuroscientists astray in their use of machine learning tools, according to a new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods: Exceeding chance level by chance.

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What’s The Truth About “TruBrain”?

By Neuroskeptic | January 14, 2015 12:03 pm

Via Twitter on Monday, I learned about truBrain, a California company who sell “think drinks”. As they put it:

Our team of UCLA trained neuroscientists set out to solve the problem that energy drinks do not – genuine focus… Crafted with the perfect amounts of active nootropics… Loaded with amino acids to fuel the thinking process.

My interest was moderately piqued by this, but then TruBrain blocked a fellow neuroblogger on Twitter. This got my attention.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: drugs, media, select, Top Posts

The Tragic History of Surgery for Schizophrenia

By Neuroskeptic | January 11, 2015 12:06 pm

A compelling article in the Journal of Medical Biography recounts the story of Bayard Holmes and Henry Cotton, two American “surgeon-psychiatrists” who believed that they could cure schizophrenia by removing parts of their patients’ intestines (and other organs).

What’s more, both men tested their treatments on their own children – with tragic results. The article is by Jonathan Davidson of Duke University.

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Oxytocin: Two New Reasons For Skepticism

By Neuroskeptic | January 10, 2015 4:52 am

A new study offers two reasons to be cautious about some of the claims made for the role of the hormone oxytocin in human behavior.

The paper’s out now in PLoS ONE from researchers James C. Christensen and colleagues, who are based at the US Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio. That the military are interested in oxytocin at all is perhaps a testament to the huge amount of interest that this molecule has attracted in recent years. Oxytocin has been called the “hug hormone”, and is said to be involved in such nice things as love and trust. But according to Christensen et al., quite a lot of previous oxytocin research may be flawed.

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Subliminal Perception: Just How Fast Is The Brain?

By Neuroskeptic | January 8, 2015 3:43 pm

Subliminal perception has long been a hot topic. The idea that something (generally an image) could appear and disappear before us so quickly that it escapes conscious perception, and yet affect us subconsciously, is a fascinating (and scary) one.

Psychologists and neuroscientists are fairly skeptical of any grand or sinister claims for the power of subliminal advertising or propaganda, but on the other hand, many of them use the technique as a research tool.

So what’s the absolute speed limit of the brain? What’s the minimum time that a stimulus needs to appear in order to trigger a measurable brain response?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: EEG, papers, select, Top Posts

What is Quantum Resonance Spectrometry?

By Neuroskeptic | January 3, 2015 6:44 am

This is my third post on ‘quantum resonance spectrometry’ (QRS), a very strange medical technology. In April I I blogged about a paper from a group of Chinese psychiatrists claiming that QRS can diagnose mental health problems.

Last week I reported that my post had inspired a Letter to the Editor questioning this claim and asking for details on how QRS works. In reply the authors said that “We know only as much as you about the work mechanism of QRS” and suggested that readers in search in details ought to consult the manufacture, “Tian Ji Quan Quantum Medical Science Development Research Institute” (

So I did. What I found was bizarre.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: funny, law, methods, QRS, select, Top Posts, woo

More On The Mystery of “Quantum Resonance Spectrometry”

By Neuroskeptic | December 30, 2014 4:54 am

Back in April, I blogged about a paper published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (JNMD) claiming that a little-known technique called ‘quantum resonance spectrometry’ (QRS) was able to diagnose mental health problems. I expressed surprise that the paper didn’t explain what QRS actually is, how it works, or what it measures.


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The Synapse Memory Doctrine Threatened?

By Neuroskeptic | December 27, 2014 5:46 am

In a provocative new paper, a group of UCLA biologists say that the leading theory for how memory is stored in the brain needs a rethink. But is it really time to throw out the textbooks?

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

Interview with Cordelia Fine at PLoS

By Neuroskeptic | December 23, 2014 5:20 am

Over at PLoS, I’ve just posted an interview with Cordelia Fine, who long-time Neuroskeptic readers will remember for her book Delusions of Gender that I reviewed back in 2010. Here’s the interview: How Psychology and Neuroscience Get Sex and Gender Wrong: Neuroskeptic Goes In-Depth with Cordelia Fine.

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