Spike activity 09-10-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:

How much can you really learn while you’re asleep? Interesting piece that looks at what the research genuinely tells us in The Guardian.

Comedian John Oliver takes on mental health in America with a segment which is both funny and sharp.

Neuroecology has an excellent post looking at the latest mega-paper from the Blue Brain Project.

There’s a good piece on how cognitive biases affect the practice of doing scientific research in Nature. Thankfully, my training has made me immune to these effects, unlike my colleagues.

Braindecoder has some striking artistic renditions of neuroanatomy from artist Greg Dunn.

Is a Liberal Bias Hurting Social Psychology? Excellent piece in Pacific Standard.

BBC News has a good piece on the evidence behind the school shooting ‘contagion’ effect.

“A tumor stole every memory I had. This is what happened when it all came back.” Great piece in Quartz. Don’t get distracted by the inaccurate use of the term dementia. Recommended.

Statistical fallacy impairs post-publication mood

banksyNo scientific paper is perfect, but a recent result on the affect of mood on colour perception is getting a particularly rough ride post-publication. Thorstenson and colleagues published their paper this summer in Psychological Science, claiming that people who were sad had impaired colour perception along the blue-yellow colour axis but not along the red-green colour axis. Pubpeer – a site where scholars can anonymously discuss papers after publication – has a critique of the paper, which observes that the paper commits a known flaw in its analysis.

The flaw, anonymous comments suggest, is that a difference between the two types of colour perception is claimed, but this isn’t actually tested by the paper – instead it shows that mood significantly affects blue-yellow perception, but does not significantly affect red-green perception. If there is enough evidence that one effect is significant, but not enough evidence for the second being significant, that doesn’t mean that the two effects are different from each other. Analogously, if you can prove that one suspect was present at a crime scene, but can’t prove the other was, that doesn’t mean that you have proved that the two suspects were in different places.

This mistake in analysis  – which is far from unique to this paper – is discussed in a classic 2011 paper by Nieuwenhuis and colleagues: Erroneous analyses of interactions in neuroscience: a problem of significance. At the time of writing the sentiment on Pubpeer is that the paper should be retracted – in effect striking it from the scientific record.

With commentary like this, you can see why Pubpeer has previously been the target of legal action by aggrieved researchers who feel the site unfairly maligns their work.

(h/t to Daniël Lakens and jjodx on twitter)

UPDATE 5/11/15: It’s been retracted

Spike activity 02-10-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:

The madness of Charlie Brown. The Lancet has a wonderful article on Lucy, Charlie Brown’s local psychiatrist.

The Atlantic has an excellent piece on new research showing neurons have different genomes.

Mexico’s 13-year-old psychologist is amazing, reports USA Today. Sí, es.

PLOS Neuro has an excellent in-depth piece about the neuroscience of sleep deprivation.

Boring cityscapes increase sadness, addiction and disease-related stress. Is urban design a matter of public health? asks Aeon.

The Wall Street Journal on why a new paper may show that the ‘hot hand’ effect in basketball may be real after all.

Pioneering dubstep DJ and producer Benga was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia last year. He speaks to The Guardian on mental health and his comeback.

The Psychologist has an excellent piece on whether the media be restricted in their reporting of mass shootings to prevent copycat killings.

There’s a good piece in Nature about the state of connectome research in neuroscience.

The Quiet Room

This month’s British Journal of Psychiatry has a brief but fascinating article about a 1979 Marvel comic featuring and written by rock legend Alice Cooper which depicts his real-life admission to a psychiatric ward.

The comic was timed to coincide with the release of his concept album From The Inside which describes his experiences as a psychiatric patient being treated for severe alcoholism and depression.

He was there for 3 months and in the comic he depicts the patients, doctors and nurses he met during his admission. Alice has often commented in interviews that treatment in hospital and recovering from his substance misuse saved his life, when many similar artists at that time, such as Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin, were not as fortunate, succumbing to their addictions. The lead single from the album was ‘How You Gonna See Me Now’, a song describing the anxiety the singer felt coming back home to his wife after his stay in hospital and facing the stigma of being treated for his mental illness. It went on to become a well-known successful ballad. The comic can still be found in comic shops or through online auction sites.

 

Link to brief British Journal of Psychiatry article.