Amping up control? Bad research practices and poor reliability raise concerns about brain stimulation

There is a lot of buzz around brain stimulation, but new problems start to surface. Neurocopiae reviews news on bad practices and poor reliability.

It hasn’t been a very good week for proponents of the popular brain stimulation method called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). tDCS is a non-invasive technique that uses electrodes to deliver weak current to a person’s forehead. Numerous papers have claimed that tDCS can enhance mood, alleviate pain, or improve cognitive function. Such reports have sparked interest in tDCS at a broader scale. When you enter tDCS in the youtube search, you will find DIY tutorials on how to assemble a device so that you can amp up your brain at home. Including enthusiastic reports of the resulting changes in brain function. To put it in Richard Dawkins’ words: Science? It works, bitches. In particular, it works when you know what the outcome should be. Continue reading “Amping up control? Bad research practices and poor reliability raise concerns about brain stimulation”

When you handle trash, do you still have to handle it with statistical care?

Neurocopiae takes a closer look at the carefully crafted pizza study survey by the Wansink lab.

UWhen it comes to reheating leftover pizza, opinions are typically divided. I like cold pizza better because when you reheat a slice of pizza, it gets soggy. This soggy slice of pizza is a fitting metaphor for the next chapter in the Wansink pizzagate saga. I was a bit reluctant to write another post on the sad downfall of ig-nobel laureate Brian Wansink, head of the Food & Brand lab at Cornell University [Mindless publishing garnished with social science apologies], but I had to take a look at the now infamous pizza buffet data myself. A couple of days ago, Wansink posted a statement re-emphasizing that “[he], of course, take[s] accuracy and replication of our research results very seriously.”  More importantly, Wansink finally granted access to the data that the four papers, which came under fire months ago, were based on: “My team has also worked to make the full anonymized data and scripts for each study available for review.” This is awesome because everything is settled now, right? Move on, methodological terrorists, nothing to see here. Well, almost. Continue reading “When you handle trash, do you still have to handle it with statistical care?”

Losing weight with loose ideas? Try the dopamine diet now

There is a new diet in town and neurocopiae is trying to maintain healthy dopamine release on carbs.

Tom Kerridge has a captivating story to tell. The popular chef and presenter on BBC’s Proper Pub Food and Best Ever Dishes lost 70 kilograms (down from 190 kg) and many viewers witnessed that he slimmed down not knowing what his secret recipe to success was. Motivated by the growing interest, Tom Kerridge wrote a book that recently entered the top ten book sales list at amazon.co.uk. It could have been another simplistic take on a low-carb diet, but the publisher decided to go a different route. They dubbed it “Tom Kerridge’s dopamine diet”. Continue reading “Losing weight with loose ideas? Try the dopamine diet now”

Mindless publishing garnished with social science apologies

Life is hard, science is harder, social science is impossible? Neurocopiae has to digest a bottomless dump of “fun” results.

Last time, I wrote a post about how difficult it is to do good research on nutrition and health (Cereal killer: Is eating breakfast the new smoking?). A couple of weeks later, as the pizzagate unfolds, we painfully learn more about these intricacies slice by slice. At the center of attention is Brian Wansink, who “is Professor and Director of the famed Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, where he is a leading expert in changing eating behavior“. If you have missed the start of the controversy and feel like you need to catch up on the full narrative, I have linked a good summary by Andrew Gelman. Briefly, Wansink wrote a post on his blog. He provided the career advice to never say no to your supervisor’s proposals because this is how you will get tenure by publishing numerous papers. Even if you have a dataset at hand that does not yield the expected result, you can torture it for a while until it finally surrenders and provides one or more significant results. Now, all it takes is little more deep diving into the data and a little pinch of wild story-telling and there you go: you have successfully inflated your list of publications. Treated in this do-or-die way, every study turns into science equivalent of the bottomless soup bowl that Wansink became famous for. Continue reading “Mindless publishing garnished with social science apologies”

Cereal killer: Is eating breakfast the new smoking?

Is breakfast dangerous? Neurocopiae swings the cereal club to protect your health.

It is difficult to see a week peacefully pass by without headlines pointing out how terribly wrong our diet or eating patterns have been so far. This week, stern.de joined the clickbait race by asking whether eating breakfast is the new smoking. Have we been all misled for decades? Fooled by froot loops? The post is based on a new book titled “Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal” by Terence Kealey. In his book, Kealey suggests that eating breakfast has a devastating effect on insulin sensitivity in the long run. My first thought was: If this is true, how could I miss the emerging evidence while doing research on insulin sensitivity and diabetes? Continue reading “Cereal killer: Is eating breakfast the new smoking?”

‘Tis the season, but not for weight loss

2016 draws to a close and New Year’s resolutions are just around the corner. Neurocopiae talks about intentions to lose weight and showcases google Trends. The trend is your friend.

As the year 2016 draws to a close, it is the perfect opportunity to look back at what we have accomplished and what lies ahead of us. New Year’s resolutions are a popular way to set ambitious goals. Yet, a new year does not magically bestow us with the willpower and persistence to succeed. This is why such resolutions have garnered a bad reputation in the press lately as if we were set to fail. However, the fate of our resolutions is barely more remarkable than the fate of the many good intentions that we fail to put into practice every day. Regardless of the season, intention is simply a bad predictor of long-term action. No need to heap blame on the New Year. Continue reading “‘Tis the season, but not for weight loss”

Tell me lies: the truth about the deceptive ACC (dACC)

What separates the truth from a lie? Neurocopiae talks about a recently published preprint on the response costs of lying. And we have blobs!

A couple of weeks ago, I published my first preprint on bioRxiv. Although there are many good reasons to publish preprints, we can put it simple and plain. They are an awesome opportunity to put your work out in the spotlight immediately. No paywall, no editorial evaluation of potential impact, no Reviewer #2. The only drawback is that they are not peer reviewed yet, so you basically have to read the paper as if you were reviewing it for a journal. Luckily, in times of rising numbers of paper submissions, this quickly becomes a habit anyway. Besides posting our drafts as preprints, what is the best thing that we can do to support the cause? Talk about preprints, of course. Continue reading “Tell me lies: the truth about the deceptive ACC (dACC)”