Brain’s nothingness centre found

Collectively Unconscious has a satirical post entitled “Brain region found that does absolutely nothing”.

Neuroscientists at the University of Ingberg have found a brain region that does absolutely nothing. Their research, presented at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting, showed that a small region of the cortex located near the posterior section of the cingulate gyrus responded to ‘not one of our 46 experimental manipulations’…

“Over the months that followed we tried everything we knew, with over 20 different participants. IQ tests, memory tasks, flashing lights, talking, listening, imagining juggling, but there was no response. Nothing. We got more desperate, so we tried pictures of faces, TMS, pictures of cats, pictures of sex, pictures of violence and even sexy violence, but nothing happened! Not even a decrease. No connectivity to anywhere else, not even a voodoo correlation. 46 voxels of wasted space. I know dead salmons that are more responsive.”

Clearly the problem here is a lack of imagination.

A recent (genuine) study simply ran the same experimental data from an fMRI scanning session through 6,912 different possible ways of conducting the analysis.

Suddenly, activity popped up all over the brain.

As Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge, because even though science strives to be an objective body of knowledge driven by a systematised method for accurately discovering causal relationships, in reality, it’s a bun fight”.

Pretty sure that was Einstein. Hang on, I’ll just check my stats. Yep, yes it was.
 

Link to satirical post on Collectively Unconscious.

Feeling sheepish

Quite possibly the strangest news story I have ever come across. It starts out strange, gets stranger and then finishes on a trumpeting pageant of strangeness. From GhanaWeb:

“People who practice bestiality threaten society”-psychologist

A psychologist at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Rev. Ekow Jackson says people who have sex with animals are potential threats to society.

He says such people have confidence problems and most times fear that their sexual advances towards humans may be turned down; a situation they cannot bear.

Such people may instead use force on the object of their sexual pleasure whether it’s a woman, a baby or an animal.

Rev. Jackson says these people should not just be ostracized or incarcerated but should be given serious psychological or psychiatric attention. He adds that some of the culprits of bestiality may have had troubled childhoods or some unresolved issues from their past.

The psychologist, who is also a minister of the Assemblies of God Church, was speaking in an interview with this reporter after a 35 year-old man, Kofi Agyeman was asked to marry a sheep he allegedly had sexual intercourse with at Wamaso in the Lower Denkyira District of the Central region.

How would we make sense of it all if there weren’t psychologists like Rev. Ekow Jackson to help us out?
 

Link to sheep news story.

Brain candle

Like most neuroscientists, when you’ve had a hard day at the lab, you get home and just want to scatter a few rose petals into a warm bath, put on your favourite whale song tape, and sink into the tub.

What’s missing? A few candles to shed a gentle ambient glow over your tired body.

Sadly, most candles just don’t cut it.

Tea lights just remind you of those 47 cups of tea you drunk during data analysis and if you wanted something with the scent of soothing reassurance you would have gone to the clinical psychology department.

What you need is a brain-floating-in-formalin-style candle.

Well, don’t worry, because ThinkGeek have started selling one.

It says it’s a “hand-sculpted brain candle suspended in gel wax” and oddly it’s described as unscented.

Clearly wrong. It smells of science.

And relaxxxxxx.
 

Link to brain candle.

No, internet addiction is not an ‘official mental illness’

The media has been buzzing with the supposed news that ‘internet addiction’ has been added to the list of ‘official mental disorders’. This is nonsense, but it tells us something oddly disappointing about how the media handles tech scare scores.

This recent wave of ‘the internet is making us crazy’ drivel stemmed from an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald and the story soon went global – being picked up by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Russia Today.

Firstly, for those of you who are not aware why the concept of internet addiction is so untrue it’s a logical impossibility, I’ll direct you to an earlier post.

But talking specifically about the article which sparked the media panic attack, it’s odd in that it quotes two psychologists – one who has never published anything on internet addiction and the other who is a Reiki therapist. This doesn’t make it wrong but it does strike me as slightly strange for a news piece.

The article is trying to talk about the listing of ‘internet use disorder‘ in a non-diagnosable section of the DSM-5 for conditions “recommended for further study”.

This section has speculative and non-official disorders in it. You can find caffeine use disorder there if you’re feeling a bit jittery.

It also has the diagnosis of attenuated psychosis syndrome in it. Here’s how science journal Nature reacted when this diagnosis was listed in the same section: “Psychosis risk syndrome excluded from DSM-5″

In other words, if something appears in the DSM-5 section “recommended for further study” it is excluded from the list of ‘official mental illnesses’ because the diagnosis has been evaluated but found to be unsupported by research evidence.

It’s a mystery why this has suddenly become ‘news’ now because this decision has been discussed for years and it finally happened last May.

But it’s also worth noting that even the proposed definition of internet use disorder isn’t actually about using the internet, it’s about online gaming. This doesn’t make it any less nonsense, however. If someone who is addicted to gambling starts playing online do they suddenly have ‘another mental illness’? Clearly not.

Similarly, the idea that someone can be ‘addicted to gaming’ is just daft as the concept of ‘gaming’ is so wide as to not describe any single behaviour or experience – something quite important if you’re going to say that there is a mental illness based on it.

More interestingly, the The Sydney Morning Herald article has a curious quirk that allows us to see how lazily these stories get picked up and flung around.

The piece says will be included in the ‘revised edition of the DSM-IV’ – which is presumably a very awkward way of saying DSM-5.

Suddenly though, the world’s media is saying that ‘internet addiction’ will be included in the ‘DSM-IV’ which would be quite a feat considering it was published in 1994.

Here’s the clanger presented as original journalism from Forbes, the Daily Mail, the HuffPo, Mashable, the New York Post, Times of India and Russia Today. The Guardian even asked readers to vote on whether it was true!

Essentially, you can currently get anything into the media just by suggesting that technology is ‘bad for our minds’, because we love stories that justify our worries – no matter how untrue.

We used to think schools were ‘bad for the mind’ but try getting ‘education causes mental illness’ into the newspapers.

A stream of unconsciousness

I have just discovered that if you search Pinterest with the keyword psychology you get a wonderfully eclectic stream of psychological images that range from the frosting of pop culture to the depths of profound theory.

In fact, it’s a bit like swimming around in the mind of a psychologist as they slowly drift off to sleep – a kind of whimsical, looping stream of half-verified memories and insights.
 

Link to ‘psychology’ on Pinterest.