Category: Neuroscience/Mental Health

Cargo Cult Psychology

Last year I reviewed Tomasz Witkowski and Maciej Zatonski’s book Psychology Gone Wrong where they pointed out that many of psychology’s accepted beliefs and therapies were not based on good evidence. Now Witkowski has written a new book, to be published later this year, Psychology Led Astray: Cargo Cult in Science and Therapy, that is certain to ruffle a lot of feathers....

/ March 15, 2016
Human_brain_in_a_vat

Bad Reporting about Uploading Memories

The Mirror declares, ‘Scientists develop Matrix-style technique of ‘feeding’ information directly into your brain.’ Discovery News went with, “Novices ‘Download’ Pilots’ Brainwaves, Learn To Fly.” Most other outlets spoke of ‘uploading’ information to the brain, and learning in seconds. The one thing I was certain of from reading these headlines is that this was not what was happening. Brain-machine interface technology is...

/ March 2, 2016
The Brain

FTC Slaps Down “Brain Training” Claims

Lumosity is a company that provides online and mobile games that it claimed are scientifically designed to enhance memory, focus, mental flexibility, and even stave off dementia. In a recent decision, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded that Luminosity’s claims are not based on adequate scientific evidence. They imposed a $50 million judgement against Lumos Labs, the company who sells Lumosity, and...

/ January 6, 2016

Neurotribes: A Better Understanding of Autism

What is autism? What causes it? Is it genetic? Is it a consequence of something in our environment or lifestyle? What’s an “idiot savant” or an “autistic savant”? What happens when autistic children become adults? Why are so many of their parents scientists, academics, and engineers? If your grandfather’s Uncle Fred was a socially inept inventor with a lot of strange quirks,...

/ December 22, 2015

Antidepressants and Autism

A new study looking at the correlation of antidepressant use during pregnancy and the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been making headlines. While the results are likely significant, they are not as worrisome as the headlines may suggest. The study: strengths and weaknesses Overall the study design is solid. They followed 145,456 singleton full-term infants for a total of 904,035.50...

/ December 16, 2015
Electromagnetic wave

“Electromagnetic hypersensitivity” and “wifi allergies”: Bogus diagnoses with tragic real world consequences

"Electromagnetic hypersensitivity" and "wifi allergies" are two names given to a nonexistent medical condition in low energy electromagnetic fields like wifi are blamed for a variety of health conditions. This is a story in which the parents' insistence that their teenage daughter, who had posted threats to commit suicide on social media, had this condition appears to have interfered with seeking mental...

/ December 7, 2015

Is Addiction a Disease? Yes and No

Addiction is a puzzling phenomenon. Why do addicts persist in self-destructive behavior even after it has lost them their jobs, their family, their health, and their self-respect? Do they have any control over their behavior? If so, why don’t they control it? If not, why not? Two recent books shed light on these questions: The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not...

/ December 1, 2015

Exercise and Memory

There is no escaping the evidence that regular moderate exercise is associated with a host of medical benefits. Among those benefits are perhaps improved memory and cognition, and questionably a decreased risk of developing dementia. The latest study to show this correlation involved younger and older adults who wore a step-monitor. The number of steps they took during the study interval was...

/ November 25, 2015

Whole Body Vibration Therapy

When skeptics hear the term “vibration” a red flag goes up, because that is a common term used in pseudoscientific jargon. Vibrations are often used to refer vaguely to energy or some physical or even spiritual property that cannot be detected, and is used in a hand-waving manner to explain extraordinary claims. Vibrations, however, are also a real thing, referring to physical...

/ October 14, 2015
Second Republican debate

Donald Trump and the dangerous vaccine politics of the 2016 Presidential race

At the second Republican debate of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump parroted antivaccine pseudoscience, and Ben Carson walked back his previously strong support for vaccine mandates. Earlier in the campaign, Rand Paul blamed vaccines for "neurologic injury," and Chris Christie briefly pandered by questioning vaccine mandates. What's going on here? Is the Republican Party becoming the antivaccine party?

/ September 21, 2015