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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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urban nomads Made in Germany

Winfried Baumann

Suvanabhaumi Airport Rail Link

The State Railway of Thailand have confirmed that the rail link to the new airport will go in to service from 23rd August 2010.

Posted via email from Pattaya Rag

The Spank Bike

Favourite time of day......

The Fall of Freud

The works of Sigmund Freud were enormously influential in 20th century psychiatry, but they've now been reduced to little more than a fringe belief system. Armed with the latest version of my PubMed history script, and inspired by this classic gnxp post on the death of Marxism, postmodernism, and other stupid academic fads I decided to see how this happened.

As you can see, the number of published scientific papers related to Freud-y search terms like psychoanalytic has flat-lined for the past 50 years. That represents a serious collapse of influence, given the enormous expansion in the amount of research being published over this time.

Since 1960 the number of papers on schizophrenia has risen by a factor of 10 and anxiety by a factor of 80 (sic). The peak of Freud's fame was 1968, when almost as many papers referenced psychoanalytic (721) as did schizophrenia (989), and it was more than half as popular as antidepressants (1372). Today it's just 10% of either. Proportionally speaking, psychoanalysis has gone out with a whimper, though not a bang.

The rise of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), however, is even more dramatic. From being almost unheard until the late 80's, it overtook psychoanalytic in 1993, and it's now more popular than antipsychotics and close on the heels of antidepressants.

What's going to happen in the future? If there is to be a struggle for influence it looks set to be fought between CBT and biological psychiatry, if only because they're pretty much the only games left in town. Yet one of the reasons behind CBT's widespread appeal is that it hasn't thus far overtly challenged biology, has adopted the methods of medicine (clinical trials etc.), and has presented itself as being useful as well as medication rather than instead of it.

One of the few exceptions was Richard Bentall's book Madness Explained (2003) in which he criticized psychiatry and presented a cognitive-behavioural alternative to orthodox biological theories of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Bentall remains on the radical wing of the CBT community but in the coming decades this kind of thing may become more common. Only time will tell...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Club Mistys

New Pattaya Post Office

I received a card in my mail box last week advising me that I had registered mail to collect from the Post Office. In the past, this has always meant a trip to the Naklua Post Office but this card clearly stated that I had to go to the new Pattaya City Post Office. Where?


One phone call later I found out that the new Pattaya City Post Office is on Sukhumvit about 1km from the Floating Market. You have to drive on Sukhumvit towards Sattahip until you reach the Floating Market. You then take a u-turn and drive approx. 1km back towards Pattaya. You will see the new Post Office on your left side. Look out for the flags.

Hard to figure a stranger location for a new P.O. for the residents of Pattaya. In fact, the Naklua P.O. will be closer for many. Hard to figure but could have much to do with who formerly owned the land now occupied by the new P.O.

Posted via email from Pattaya Rag

Out Of Africa

We did it to the Scots so it was bound to come back and haunt us.....

Posted via email from Pattaya Rag

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jabulani Football

The Jabulani football gets in everywhere.......

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Club Blu Cow Girl party

More photos from the Club Blu Cow Girl Party last Friday.




Click on the link for the full album of photos


When One Neurotransmitter Is Not Enough

Important news from San Francisco neuroscientists Stuber et al: Dopaminergic Terminals in the Nucleus Accumbens But Not the Dorsal Striatum Corelease Glutamate.

The finding's right there in the title: dopamine is a neurotransmitter, and so is glutamate. Stuber et al found (in mice) that many of the cells that release dopamine also simultaneously release glutamate - specifically, almost all of the cells that project to the nucleus accumbens, involved in pleasure and motivation, also release glutamate. By contrast none of the dopaminergic neurons projecting to the nearby dorsal striatum, involved in movement regulation do this.

Previous work had provided some suggestive evidence for some degree of glutamate/dopamine co-release but this is the first hard evidence and the fact that basically all the dopamine input to the nucleus accumbens is also glutamate input is especially striking.

This is important because it overturns the idea that neurons only release one neurotransmitter each. In fact, it's been clear for a while that this isn't strictly true: there are various little-understood peptide transmitters or "neurohormones" that are known to be co-released, but their function is obscure in most cases.

Dopamine and glutamate on the other hand are both extremely well studied neurotransmitters in their own right. Glutamate's the single most common transmitter in the brain while dopamine is famous for its role in motor control, motivation, Parkinson's disease, mental illness and the action of recreational drugs, just for starters.

What exactly the glutamate does in the nucleus accumbens is completely mysterious at present but future work will no doubt shed light on this. More generally, this paper is a reminder of the fact that our knowledge of the brain is still in its infancy...

ResearchBlogging.orgStuber, G., Hnasko, T., Britt, J., Edwards, R., & Bonci, A. (2010). Dopaminergic Terminals in the Nucleus Accumbens But Not the Dorsal Striatum Corelease Glutamate Journal of Neuroscience, 30 (24), 8229-8233 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1754-10.2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

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Carbon Fiber

Password

A few days ago, a friend of mine had her GMail account compromised, resulting in much stress for all concerned. This prompted me to change my passwords.

That was three days ago. Since then, I've logged into GMail maybe ten or fifteen times, and every single time I've initially typed the old password. Sometimes, I catch myself and change it before hitting "enter", but usually not. Access denied. Oops. It's getting slightly better, but I think it'll be a good few days before I'm entering the new password as automatically as I did the old one.

It's not hard to see why this kind of thing happens: I'd typed in the old password hundreds, probably thousands, of times over the course of at least a year. It had become completely automatic. That kind of habit takes a long time to learn, so it's no surprise that it takes quite a while to unlearn (though hopefully not quite as long).

Psychologists will recognize the distinction between declarative memory, my concious knowledge of what my new password is, and procedural memory, my ability to unconsciously type it. It's also commonly known as "muscle memory": this is misleading because it's stored in the brain, like all knowledge, but it nicely expresses the feeling that it's your body that has the memory, rather than "you".

Damage to the hippocampus can leave people unable to remember what happened ten minutes ago, but perfectly capable of learning new skills: they just don't remember how they learned them. But you don't have to suffer brain damage to experience procedural knowledge in the absence of declarative recall. I've sometimes found myself unable to remember my password and only reminded myself by going to the login page and successfully typing it. I knew it all along - but only procedurally.

The thing about procedural knowledge is that when it works, you don't notice it's there. So we almost certainly underestimate its contribution to our lives. If you asked me what happens when I log in to GMail, I'd probably say "I type in my username and my password". But maybe it would be more accurate to say: "I go to the login screen, and my brain types my username and password."

Can I take the credit, given that sometimes I - my conciousness - don't even know the password until my brain's helpfully typed it for me? And while in this case I do know it some of the time, much of our procedural knowledge has no declarative equivalent. I can ride a bike, but if you asked me to tell you how I do it, to spell out the complex velocity-weight-momentum calculations that lie behind the adjustments that my muscles constantly make to keep me upright, I'd be stumped.

"I just sit down and pedal." But if I literally did that and nothing more, I'd fall flat on my face. There's a lot more to cycling than that, but I have no idea what it is. So can I ride a bike, or do I just happen to inhabit a brain that can? Isn't saying that I can ride a bike like saying that I can drive just because I have a chauffeur?


Take this train of thought far enough and you reach some disturbing conclusions. Maybe it's not so hard to accept that various skills lie outside the reach of our concious self, but surely the decisions to use those skills are ours alone. Sure, my brain types my username and password for me, but I'm the one who decided to login to GMail - I could have decided to turn the computer off and go for a walk instead. I have Free Will! Like George W. Bush, I'm the Decider. My brain just handles the boring details.

But isn't deciding a skill too? And willing, remembering, thinking, judging, feeling, concluding - I can do all those things, but if I knew how I do them, I'd win the the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine because I'd just have solved the hardest questions of neuroscience. So can I take credit for doing them, or is it my brain?

Ultimately, every concious act must be constructed from unconscious processes; otherwise there would be an infinite regress of conciousness. If the world rested on the back of a giant turtle, what would the turtle stand on? Turtles all the way down?

Link: The Concept of Mind (1949) is a book by the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle, from which I "borrowed" the ideas in this post, and which was probably the one book that most inspired me to study neuroscience.

Friday, June 25, 2010

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Via 100 ans d´amour !

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by Rapha

The A Team Sets fMRI to Rights

Remember the voodoo correlations and double-dipping controversies that rocked the world of fMRI last year? Well, the guys responsible have teamed up and written a new paper together. They are...

The paper is Everything you never wanted to know about circular analysis, but were afraid to ask. Our all-star team of voodoo-hunters - including Ed "Hannibal" Vul (now styled Professor Vul), Nikolaus "Howling Mad" Kriegeskorte, and Russell "B. A." Poldrack - provide a good overview of the various issues and offer their opinions on how the field should move forward.

The fuss concerns a statistical trap that it's easy for neuroimaging researchers, and certain other scientists, to fall into. Suppose you have a large set of data - like a scan of the brain, which is a set of perhaps 40,000 little cubes called voxels - and you search it for data points where there is a statistically significant effect of some kind.

Because you're searching in so many places, in order to avoid getting lots of false positives you set the threshold for significance very high. That's fine in itself, but a problem arises if you find some significant effects and then take those significant data points and use them as a measure of the size of the effects - because you have specifically selected your data points on the basis that they show the very biggest effects out of all your data. This is called the non-independence error and it can make small effects seem much bigger.

The latest paper offers little that's new in terms of theory, but it's a good read and it's interesting to get the authors' expert opinion on some hot topics. Here's what they have to say about the question of whether it's acceptable to present results that suffer from the non-independence error just to "illustrate" your statistically valid findings:
Q: Are visualizations of non-independent data helpful to illustrate the claims of a paper?

A: Although helpful for exploration and story telling, circular data plots are misleading when presented as though they constitute empirical evidence unaffected by selection. Disclaimers and graphical indications of circularity should accompany such visualizations.
Now an awful lot of people - and I confess that I've been among them - do this without the appropriate disclaimers. Indeed, it is routine. Why? Because it can be useful illustration - although the size of the effects appears to be inflated in such graphs, on a qualitative level they provide a useful impression of the direction and nature of the effects.

But the A Team are right. Such figures are misleading - they mislead about the size of the effect, even if only inadvertently. We should use disclaimers, or ideally, avoid using misleading graphs. Of course, this is a self-appointed committee: no-one has to listen to them. We really should though, because what they're saying is common sense once you understand the issues.

It's really not that scary - as I said on this blog at the outset, this is not going to bring the whole of fMRI crashing down and end everyone's careers; it's a technical issue, but it is a serious one, and we have no excuse for not dealing with it.

ResearchBlogging.orgKriegeskorte, N., Lindquist, M., Nichols, T., Poldrack, R., & Vul, E. (2010). Everything you never wanted to know about circular analysis, but were afraid to ask Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism DOI: 10.1038/jcbfm.2010.86

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Running With the Fash Pack....Australian Fashion Week 2010

The gorgeous Miss Sara again.

p.s. Am madly packing for a little trip to Paris for a couple of days-I just checked the temps and it is going to be hot, hot, hot! See you all when I get back (with some new photographs I hope. I bet a lot of you will be sighing with relief to have a little break from the Aus photographs!)