Category: Neuroscience/Mental Health

Prenatal Mercury and Autism

Mercury in unequivocally a neurotoxin. It is especially damaging to the developing brain. But it’s the dose that makes the toxin, and so a low enough exposure even to something known to be potentially harmful may not be. Further, the body has mechanisms for dealing with toxins, and toxins in the body may not be reaching the cells they can potentially damage...

/ July 24, 2013
transcranial_magnetic_stimulation of a rat

Brain Stimulation for the Masses

In the last decade or so there has been increasing research into non-invasive brain stimulation techniques for a variety of conditions. These include transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), random noise stimulation (tRNS), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). These techniques alter the excitability of neurons in the brain, seem to have an effect on plasticity (the ability to...

/ July 10, 2013

Auditory Integration Training

Finding a simple fix for complex problems is highly appealing, which drives a persistent market in simple fixes, whether or not they are actually effective. The growing “brain training” industry is an example of this – the concept being that performing simple tasks, such as playing particular games, can have wide-ranging cognitive benefits. Unfortunately the evidence has not been kind to this...

/ June 26, 2013

The murder of autistic teen Alex Spourdalakis by his mother and caregiver: What happened?

Editor’s note: This is an extra “bonus” post. Basically, it’s a revised version of a post I did at my not-so-super-secret-other-blog last week. The issue, however, has disturbed me so much that I felt it appropriate to post it to SBM as well. Fear not. There will be a new post by yours truly on Monday. Sometimes, in the course of blogging,...

/ June 16, 2013

Gyrostim and the Infrastructure of Quackery

It’s frustrating to read yet another story of the process of developing a potential new medical treatment derailed by the current infrastructure of quackery that we have in this and other countries. This is one of the unmeasurable harms that results when pseudoscience is given regulatory, academic, and professional legitimacy. The press then celebrates the nonsense that results. The basic story is...

/ June 5, 2013
DSM-5_&_DSM-IV-TR

DSM-5 and the Fight for the Heart of Psychiatry

The new DSM is out, what are people saying about it?

/ May 22, 2013

GAPS Diet

A correspondent asked me to look into the GAPS diet.  I did. I was sorry: it was a painful experience. What a mishmash of half-truths, pseudoscience, imagination, and untested claims! GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. It is the invention of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. According to her, a wide variety of health problems can be traced to a single cause: an imbalance...

/ May 7, 2013

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind

In his first book, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Wrong, neurologist Robert Burton showed that our certainty that we are right has nothing to do with how right we are. He explained how brain mechanisms can make us feel even more confident about false beliefs than about true ones. Now, in a new book, A Skeptic’s Guide...

/ April 30, 2013

Does Brain Training Work?

Websites such as Luminosity.com make some bold promises about the effectiveness of computer-based brain-training programs. The site claims: “Harness your brain’s neuroplasticity and train your way to a brighter life” “Your brain’s abilities are unique. That’s why your Personalized Training Program adapts to fit your brain and your life goals.” “Just 10 hours of Lumosity training can create drastic improvements. Track your...

/ April 17, 2013

Dr. Amen’s Love Affair with SPECT Scans

Daniel Amen loves SPECT scans (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography). And well he should. They have brought him fame and fortune. They have rewarded him with a chain of Amen Clinics, a presence on PBS, lucrative speaking engagements, a $4.8 million mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and a line of products including books, videos and diet supplements (“nutraceuticals”).  He grossed $20 million...

/ March 19, 2013