The amount of BS you can get published about the brain

Hype about brain therapies isn’t confined to second rank journals The following is a direct quote from Neuron vol. 87 pp. 940 – 941 ’15.

” When a journal of the standing of Nature carries a headline ‘‘Shocks to the brain improve mathematical abilities’’ (Callaway) concerning two studies, we have to ask how this will be perceived. It is doubtful that the non-scientific reader will note that the studies have not been independently replicated, that only one of them tested mathematics, that the gains are as small as being milliseconds faster at some simple sums, and that only six people were tested in follow-up.

When it is claimed that tDCS (transcranial Direct Current Stimulation) can improve problem-solving abilities (Chi and Snyder, Brain Res. vol. 1353 pp. 168 – 175 ’10), the casual reader will not notice that only one-third of subjects improved, that there is no evidence that effects are sustained beyond 3 min, that there was no active control stimulation, and that there was no control for order effects.”

Caveat emptor. The quote is from an excellent review about brain stimulation with either magnetic fields or electrical current (direct, alternating or random) — Neuron vol. 87 pp. 932 – 944 ’15 — e.g. Non-invasive human brain stimulation, by 3 of the adults in the room.

It gets worse — here’s part of an older post — with a link to the whole thing —

How badly are thy researchers, O default mode network

If you Google “default mode network” you get 32 million hits in under a second. This is what the brain is doing when we’re sitting quietly not carrying out some task. If you don’t know how we measure it using functional mMRI skip to the **** and then come back. I’m not a fan of functional MRI (fMRI), the pictures it produces are beautiful and seductive, and unfortunately not terribly repeatable.

If [ Neuron vol. 82 pp. 695 – 705 ’14 ] is true than all the work on the default network should be repeated.


Because they found that less than half of 71 subjects studied were stably awake after 5 minutes in the scanner. E.g. they were actually asleep part of the time.

How can they say this?

They used Polysomnography — which simultaneously measures tons of things — eye movements, oxygen saturation, EEG, muscle tone, respiration pulse; the gold standard for sleep studies on the patients while in the MRI scanner.

You don’t have to be a neuroscientist to know that cognition is rather different in wake and sleep.


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