Month: March 2008

Thoughts on Neuroplasticity

I recently read a fascinating book, The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. He describes case histories and research indicating that the brain is far more malleable than we once thought. We used to think each function was localized to a small area of the brain and if you lost that area of brain tissue the function was gone forever. We once thought...

/ March 18, 2008

The ultimate in “integrative medicine”: Integrating the unscientific into the medical school curriculum

For the second week in a row I find myself throwing out the original post that I had planned on doing in favor of a different topic. The reason this week is, quite simply, having read Dr. Atwood’s excellent two part post Misleading Language: The Common Currency of “CAM” Characterizations (Part I; Part II). I don’t at this time intend to expand...

/ March 17, 2008

Misleading Language: the Common Currency of “CAM” Characterizations Part II

Background I promised readers the “Advanced Course” for this week, which undoubtedly has you shaking in your boots. Fear not: you’ve already had a taste of advanced, subtle, misleading “CAM” language, and most of you probably “got” it. That was R. Barker Bausell’s analysis of how homeopathy is “hypothesized to work.” In the interest of civility, let me reiterate that I don’t...

/ March 14, 2008

Persistence of Memory

I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on every subject), as soon as the facts are shown to be opposed to it. — Charles R. Darwin I’m getting old: 50, almost 51, and that’s over 350 in dog years. As a result of my...

/ March 13, 2008

Do Antidepressants Work? The Effect of Publication Bias

A recent meta-analysis of the most commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs raises some very important questions for science-based medicine. The study: Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, was conducted by Irving Kirsch and colleagues, who reviewed clinical trials of six antidepressants (fluoxetine, venlafaxine, nefazodone, paroxetine, sertraline, and citalopram). They looked at all studies...

/ March 12, 2008

Science and Chiropractic

In the comments to a previous blog entry, a chiropractor made the following statements: 1. Chiropractic is a science. 2. Chiropractic is based on neurology, anatomy and physiology. 3. Chiropractors are doctors of the nervous system. 4. Chiropractic improves health and quality of life. I offered to write a blog entry on the “science” of chiropractic, and I asked him, both in...

/ March 11, 2008

The Hannah Poling case and the rebranding of autism by antivaccinationists as a mitochondrial disorder

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I seem to have taken on the role of the primary vaccine blogger of this little group of bloggers trying desperately to hold the forces of pseudoscience and magical thinking at bay in the face of powerful forces trying to “integrate” prescientific belief systems with science- and evidence-based medicine, a process that would...

/ March 10, 2008

Misleading Language: the Common Currency of “CAM” Characterizations. Part I

The Best Policy From time to time I have been reiterating that correct use of the language has much to do with logic; I should add that it entails also honesty. I use the word “honesty” in its broadest sense… Concision is honesty, honesty concision—that’s one thing you need to know. —John Simon. Paradigms Lost: Reflections on Literacy and its Decline. New York, NY:...

/ March 7, 2008

RCT Plausibility Scale

After a few intro paragraphs, I want to present a scale of probability to estimate a value of a “prior” to plug into the formula for obtaining a Bayes Factor. The scale can help to estimate a value, but will still rely on an estimate, the non-quantitative element in Bayesian simulations. However, the checklist may at least provide some objective bases on...

/ March 6, 2008

Science-Based Nutrition

One of the most successful propaganda campaigns within health care in the last few decades has been the re-branding of nutrition as “alternative” or out of the mainstream of scientific medicine. I have marveled at how successful this campaign has been, despite all the historical evidence to the contrary. I suppose this is partly a manifestation of the public’s short-term memory, but...

/ March 5, 2008