This one is for some folks I’ve been engaging with on the Twitts about Uncle Siggy…

Link to Youtube

Don’t forget DrZen’s comment:

Freud was a comparative neuroanatomist who made significant discoveries: http://bit.ly/vf3qK

ScienceInsider has published a letter from Harvard Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Michael Smith, addressed to his faculty.

it is with great sadness that I confirm that Professor Marc Hauser was found solely responsible, after a thorough investigation by a faculty investigating committee, for eight instances of scientific misconduct under FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] standards.

The dean notes that their internal inquiry is over but that there are ongoing investigations from the NIH and NSF. So my curiosity turns to Hauser’s NIH support- I took a little stroll over to RePORTER.

From 1997 to 2009 there are nine projects listed under the P51RR000168 award which is the backbone funding for the New England Primate Research Center, one of the few places in which the highly endangered cotton top tamarin is maintained for research purposes. The majority of the projects are titled “CONCEPTUAL KNOWLEDGE AND PERCEPTION IN TAMARINS”. RePORTER is new and the prior system, CRISP, did not link the amounts but you can tell from the most recent two years that these are small projects amounting to $50-60K.

Hauser appears to have only had a single R01 “Mechanisms of Vocal Communication” (2003-2006).

Of course we do not know how many applications he may have submitted that were not selected for funding and, of course, ORI considers applications that have been submitted when judging misconduct and fraud, not just the funded ones. One of the papers that has been retracted was published in 2002 so the timing is certainly such that there could have been bad data included in the application.

The P51 awards offer a slight twist. I’m not totally familiar with the system but it would not surprise me if this backbone award to the Center, reviewed every 5 years, only specified a process by which smaller research grants would be selected by a non-NIH peer review process. Perhaps it is splitting hairs but it is possible that Hauser’s subprojects were not reviewed by the NIH. There may be some loopholes here.

Wandering over to NSF’s Fastlane search I located 10 projects on which Hauser was PI or Co-PI. This is where his big funding has been coming from, apparently. So yup, I bet NSF will have some work to do in evaluating his applications to them as well.

This announcement from the Harvard Dean is just the beginning.

ResearchBlogging.orgA recent paper set out to examine automobile driving skills in people who had previously used Ecstasy (presumptively 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; MDMA) but were currently not using. Dastrup and colleagues (2010) used a driving simulator task in which the job was to maintain a set distance behind a lead vehicle (LV) displayed on the computer screen. The job was to stay abut two car lengths (given as 18 meters) behind the LV while accelerating to 55mph. My Google U conversion calculation makes 55 mph out to be about 25 meters / sec. I would therefore estimate the closing time between the cars as about 0.4-0.5 seconds, depending on car length and how much space you assume between these lengths. Thereafter the LV changed speed as depicted in the Figure 2 from the paper.
Dastrup10-fig2.pngThe horizontal line sits at the 55 mph point and you can see that the speed of the LV varies up to about 59 mph and down to about 51 mph with the maximum change taking place over about 18-20 seconds. .

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We’ve been talking about the use of animals in research lately. One thing that always comes up is how animals share some critical capacity with humans. I try to point out in all of this that some of these questions are amenable to investigation. Some of the claims can be supported, nullified or qualified on the basis of existing data. The process of describing or interpreting the data is never simple. And it seems that many people who parrot what seem to be simple claims actually have very little understanding of the evidence on which they rest. I have at least one observation in the archive that points out where not thinking hard about the strength of the evidence can lead to unsupported conclusions being widely disseminated. This post was originally published Feb 25, 2008.


In the midst of World War I, Wolfgang Köhler conducted a famous series of experiments to investigate problem solving ability in chimpanzees. The lasting impression of these experiments, reinforced by just about every introductory Psychology text, was Köhler’s assertion that the chimps demonstrated “insightful” learning.
Did they now?

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In case anyone missed this, The Brain Observatory at UCSD is slicing perhaps the most well known brain in cognitive neuroscience. That of Henry Molaison, aka “HM”.
http://thebrainobservatory.ucsd.edu/hm_live.php
DAY 2 UPDATE: They are slicing again after quite a bit of time to get a new microtome blade going. You can follow Twitter commentary on the #HM hashtag (even if you don’t have a Twitt account).

Hey, here’s another one! The University of Cincinnati school paper has a bit entitled “Ecstasy might be linked to mental deficits” by one Gin A. Ando.

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Greg Laden has an absolutely fantastic post up on “The Falsehoods” in which he observes:

Biology is harder to learn than quantum physics. Why? Because most people think they totally get biology, but everyone knows nobody gets quantum physics. Therefore, any effort to explore quantum physics will result in new learning, but people rarely learn new biology. The bottom line is that our brains are full of biology, which would be good if most of it did not consist of falsehoods.

This is great stuff.

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250px-Percy_Lavon_Julian.jpg
source
Percy Lavon Julian, Ph.D. (1899-1975) was a scientist who rose from humble beginnings, was trained and educated in an adverse cultural era and became a highly accomplished synthetic chemist and entrepreneur (Wikipedia; PubMed; ACS bio). From the American Chemical Society biography:

He was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 11, 1899, the son of a railway clerk and the grandson of slaves. From the beginning, he did well in school, but there was no public high school for African-Americans in Montgomery. Julian graduated from an all-black normal school inadequately prepared for college. Even so, in the fall of 1916, at the age of 17, he was accepted as a subfreshman at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. This meant that in addition to his regular college courses he took remedial classes at a nearby high school. He also had to work in order to pay his college expenses. Nevertheless, he excelled. Julian was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1920 as valedictorian of his class.

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oooooooo. pretty.

January 9, 2009

ooopretty.jpg

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A recent post up at the Frontal Cortex points approvingly to a study of strollers, prams, toddlers and parental conversation. Jonah Lehrer concludes:

It would be nice to see this research filter down to stroller manufacturers, so that even cheap plastic strollers allow the infant to interact with the parent.

Very interesting. Must be strong evidence, no? And after all, we all want our little wackaballoons to be as smart and advanced as possible, do we not?

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The man who constituted one of the best explored case studies in cognitive psychology, perhaps the best explored case study ever, has passed away. As reported in the Montreal Gazette:

The 82-year-old man scientists have known only as HM died of heart failure Tuesday after decades in a Connecticut chronic care home, unaware of what he gave to science.

In short, H.M. suffered intractable epilepsy for which he underwent a removal of large portions of his temporal lobes. Although successful in curbing his seizures, the procedure resulted in a anterograde memory loss resulting in an individual stuck in time. The rather selective nature of his impairment led to a huge number of investigations and information on the neuronal basis of various processes that we think of under the general term”memory”.
RIP, H.M., voluntarily or not you are a lion of science.
[additional here; h/t: PP]

Recent discussion of the way papers should be presented and comments on the way papers were written in the good old days when Uncle Sol was a wee scientist motivated me to repost something I put up on the old blog July 11, 2007.


First, I’ll tip the hat to Shelley at Retrospectacle for starting a “tour of the vaults” with the classic LSD in elephants study. Today, I’m reaching way back for “A study of trial and error reactions in mammals” by G. V. Hamilton, Journal of Animal Behavior, 1911 Jan-Feb 1(1):33-66. This study is worth reading because it provides an often hilarious insight into the conduct of science at the turn of the past century but also because this study is a root (perhaps the taproot) of a relatively current subfield on spatial working memory and spatial search.

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Functional imaging approaches such as fMRI that indirectly detect changes in correlates of neuronal activity in volumetrically defined brain locations are extremely popular right now. Investigators put animals or human subjects in an imaging rig, and then have the subject perform tasks or respond to various stimuli. The idea is that by detecting particular brain regions that become more active during certain phases of a task, one gains insight into how the brain processes information.
This is an open thread for our commenters to discuss whether this set of approaches is a total waste of fucking time and effort that generates pretty picture fodder for making up wackaloon fantasy stories about how the brain works, or, alternatively, is really providing us with information that will lead to a genuinely more satisfying understanding of neural information processing. Go at it!

Science Mnemonics

April 22, 2008

A mnemonic device can be described as:

…a memory aid. Mnemonics are often verbal, something such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something, particularly lists. Mnemonics rely not only on repetition to remember facts, but also on associations between easy-to-remember constructs and lists of data, based on the principle that the human mind much more easily remembers insignificant data attached to spatial, personal, or otherwise meaningful information than that occurring in meaningless sequences.

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In the midst of World War I, Wolfgang Köhler conducted a famous series of experiments to investigate problem solving ability in chimpanzees. The lasting impression of these experiments, reinforced by just about every introductory Psychology text, was Köhler’s assertion that the chimps demonstrated “insightful” learning.
Did they now?

Read the rest of this entry »

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