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Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 4136 | Comments: 2
Last by Brian on May 03, 2011, 6:16pm
EcoPhysioMichelle is a graduate student in organismal biology. Her thesis research is on the ecophysiology of epidermal lipids and water homeostasis in house sparrows, and she is a graduate teaching associate for an introductory human physiology class for non-majors. She blogs about human physiology, weird animal biology, and the interface of science and culture on her blog C6-H12-O6. You can follow her on Twitter (@physilology).


Hypoadiponectinemia is a long word that simply describes the state of having too little of a certain endocrine called adiponectin. Adiponectin is a major metabolic endocrine, and is responsible for regulating things like glucose uptake and lipolysis (the breakdown of fat stores). Having hypoadiponectinemia, or too little adiponectin, is a risk factor for both Type II Diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a syndrome principally characterized by central obesity, or an overly large waist circumference, among other things).

Plasma adiponectin concentration (or how much of the endocrine is present in your blood) is inversely correlated with the am . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2344 | Comments: 7
Last by Psycasm on May 07, 2011, 7:16pm

One thing I can say with certainty – as a student of psychology – is that I have participated in more psych-studies than the rest of the population. Additionally, I’ve a bit of experience running studies, which brings you into contact with a great many psych students, all of whom have experience in taking many psych studies.

Frequently these people are first-years who need to participate in order to satisfy a certain percentage of course credit. Other times they’re more advanced students who just want to stay connected with their more senior peers (I count myself among them), and other times they’re simply so poor that $10 for 20 minutes participation means a warm lunch and a bus-ticket (again, I count myself among them).

The thing about it, by design and fortune, is that when you do a study you very rarely actually know what you’re being studied on. I recently signed up for a study (which promised to pay $30 dollars!) that involved me visiting some room and painting a coffee cup, drinking coffee out of said cup for two weeks, then returning to the lab with it and lifting it up and down several hundred times from half a dozen different positions – granted, there was some fancy camera equipment . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 1323 | Comments: 6
Last by Psycasm on Apr 27, 2011, 7:10pm

I wanted to start this post with a simple question:

How well do you know yourself?

…then I realized that it's not a simple question at all. After I applied it to myself I realized that I can know some things about myself (i.e. that I like the colour blue, and that I’m open to new experiences) that are almost certainly true, but not necessarily part of ‘who I am’. But if I try to drill down to my self-concept – those parts of me that I identify as making up the whole of me – it begins to get much harder. I like to think I’m creative, that I’m driven, that I am disciplined; but then I have to ask myself is this true?

A recent publication (which found its way into my inbox) by Vazire and Carlson (2011) suggests (consistent with the past research of others) that we’re not always very good at such things.

The paper, published in the most recent Current Directions of Psychological Science, is a theoretical piece that suggests

1) that self-report measures and introspection are not all they’re cracked up to be, and

2) that reports from others regarding the self can be very useful and more accurate than those provided about oneself.

I won’t spen . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 7408 | Comments: 14
Last by Tim Skellett (Gurdur) on May 01, 2011, 4:14pm
This week's guest blogger is Tim Skellett. He is an Australian, but these days lives semi-permanently in northwestern Germany. His interests range from nature to ecology, gardening, reading, metal- and hot-glass-work, and travelling. He is a frequent contributor to the Guardian. He can be found on his Twitter account, at @Gurdur or on his blog.


I once heard a woman talk, and I've never forgotten her, although I only heard about ten minutes of her speech, decades ago. I had a job in healthcare at the time, and part of my job was accompanying patients to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; the woman was one of a quite a few speakers at that meeting. She had been diagosed with Huntington's disease, which was a death sentence, and today still is; it was well-advanced, and meant she would die not all that long afterwards, and quite possibly in dementia. Huntingon's disease, also called Huntington's Chorea, is an autosomal dominant genetic, neurodegenerative disorder. So this woman had been handed one of life's truly nastily bad cards; one of her parents had had at least one particularly bad form of a specific gene, Huntingtin. That malformation of one gene has a great many different possible outworkings because the gene is widely spread throughout the body, although concentrated in the brain. The different outworkings can lead to different symptoms being presented clinically, which creates problems for nosology - the science or philosophy of how we define diseases. Sufferers of Huntington's often enough commit suicide, and it can be very difficult to determine if such a sufferer is suicidal owing to one possible rational response to the thought of dying in such a manner as Huntington's, or because the Huntington's itself has caused suicidal ideation through pathological brain changes, which is known to happen in some sufferers. Huntington's, like other neurodegenerative diseases, affects intentionality, our power of choice of action, through affecting the brain.

. . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 820 | Comments: 5
Last by yannisguerra on Apr 23, 2011, 3:50am
First year will be over in a few short months. Giving us the last "summer vacation" any of us will ever have. We've sat through countless hours of Fundamentals in Patient Care; Nutrition & Metabolism; Cardiovascular; Pulmonology & Renal. Those of us who did volunteer duty have rotated through a number of departments acting as glorified gophers, learning to take patient histories and basic vitals, and learning to stand quietly in the background as Residents and Senior Staff worked. Those of us who were insane enough to want a PhD sat through insane 2-4 week "electives," that made us wonder why we were taking Cell Phys and Physical Chemistry all over. In a much, much shorter time frame. Tears were to be had. Honest.

That said, for next year's first years I have a few words of advice:

. . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 1336 | Comments: 0

In the latest podcast I express my skepticism towards the nature of the Macbeth effect.The Macbeth effect is so named after Lady Macbeth, who, after murdering King Duncan attempts to wash the blood off her hands (both literally, and figuratively).

Spurred by this famous scene, the study found that washing one's hand after recalling or evaluating an unethical/immoral act seems to lesson one's guilt (Zhong & Liljenquist, 2006). A similiar and seperate study found that washing one's hands before making moral judgements seemed to minimize the degree to which one moralized on the topic (that is, they thought an act was less bad than they otherwise would have) (Schnall, Benton & Harvey, 2008)

In the podcast the examples centered around recalling one's own unethical act, then measuring if participants are washing their hands afterwards. Matt and James both questioned my skepticism (rightly so) and argue that doing the study with a bigger stimuli (say, exposing someone to a 40 minute documentary of the atrocities of WWII; or giving them the opportunity to actually steal, or commit an unethical act in situ ) wouldn't shed more lig . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3000 | Comments: 20
Last by Lesley Fellows on Apr 29, 2011, 4:29am

If you're new to Psycasm, feel free to skip the following preamble. It's mostly just background. I'd like to think it does have some interesting links to past works, however (both mine, and of others).


The following post is in response to a comment made by Michael Blume (who has previously graced LabSpaces with a Dangerous Experiments post), who, in repsonse to my post regarding the Cognitive Differences Between Christians and Atheists suggested I might be interested in work done by Ara Norenzayan (at the University of British Columbia).

Though it may seem I tend to fixate on religion, I assure you this is not the case. Prior to this post I have made approximately 2 1/2 posts on religion (the 1/2 was on . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 402 | Comments: 2
Last by Psycasm on Apr 11, 2011, 7:46pm
I'm looking for someone to start a public dialogue with. Not necessarily a debate, nor a series of essays, just a conversation.

I tend to find myself spending a few hours researching, reading and writing every blog post I make. As a result I've found myself only being able to produce one a week and riding the comments for as long as possible thereafter. Thus, I feel my midweek could be spruced up with something interesting. Something a little less formal. Something a little more interactive. Maybe there could even be jokes...

I tend to write about behaviour, or cognition, or belief. I don't think I've ever really tackled any bigger questions like 'What is Cognition' or 'What is Behaviour'. But I feel this is fertile ground for investigation. And so I'd like to propose an open dialogue with someone on such issues - 'What is Mind?', 'Is there free-will?', 'What is the nature of thought?'.

As it stands I'm not sure anyone can give a definitive answer on such questions, but almost certainly we've got ideas, hypotheses and intuitions. A series of open dialogues might be just the way to foster some cross-disciplinary interactions. Ideally I'm looking Philosophy blogger, someone like me - an active blogger, engaged, eager and (ideally) an undergrad.
. . . More
Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 4149 | Comments: 7
Last by Erika Villanueba on Nov 29, 2011, 11:24pm
If I had to pick any one pathogen to call my "favorite", it would be the influenza virus. In truth, it picked me. It's a passion of my boss/mentor, so naturally much of my work and study has revolved around various influenza viruses. Zoonotic influenza research is the primary focus of his applied laboratory in which I work. Our "niche" is occupational animal exposures as risk factors for zoonotic influenza infections. From the countless grant proposals, manuscripts, and undergrad lecturing, to a key component of my dissertation, I've developed quite an interest in this virus and even consider it as a career focus after graduating.

This first post of the blog series will cover the basics of influenza A viruses and their pandemic potential. Later I'll go into the epidemiology of influenza viruses, but this first post serves as a starting point. A word of caution: I'm not a virologist, so I've kept things simple. Now let's jump right in...

Influenza virus basics. There are three species, or types, of influenza viruses (A, B, and C). Humans can be infected with all types, but influenza A is the most virulent. Wild aquatic birds are the natural reservoirs for most influenza A viruses, but through various modes of transmission . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 1528 | Comments: 5
Last by Psycasm on Apr 06, 2011, 8:27pm

When was the last time you had good ol' belly laugh?

I know the last time I did was during the recording of the last Psychobabble, when Jess made a comment about watching Psycho then visiting your hypothetical mother-in-law who 'has always regarded you as a temporary fixture in her child's life'. For whatever reason this cracked me up. I ended up keeping a few seconds of my laugh in the recording (something I usually don't do), but edited out >60% of it. I made the decision to keep it because it sounded good. It was an honest-to-goodness belly laugh, and such a genuine display of emotion, I reasoned, could only be a good thing.

Then I got thinking. Why do we laugh - what purpose does it really serve?

But first - you need to laugh. Most of you have probably already seen it, but I guarantee you'll laugh again.

Who was laughing along? That baby cracks me up. I love it that he laughs so much he bangs his head (repeatedly) against the furniture. The father laughing along helps the situation. You can't help but know that everyone involved is just having an honest and genuinely happy time. B . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4255 | Comments: 14
Last by yannisguerra on Mar 29, 2011, 10:24pm

The following is a clip from a morning show called Weekend Sunrise. It’s the weekend incarnation of the ‘more serious’ weekday show (simply called ‘Sunrise’). Sunrise (the ‘more serious’ one) is a pithy variety show with a couple of conceited hosts who are fuelled by conservative opinion and an overstated evaluation of their own journalistic and critical merit.

The weekend version is a bit lighter and takes itself a little less seriously. As a result it also is a little less critical.

Presented here is scientific evidence proof of the afterlife.

[If you can’t spare 7 minutes of your life I do provide a brief summary]

The first thing that struck me was the high production value of the info-clip, entirely populated with Christian imagery and popular Christian metaphor. I thought it was a little cheesy, but tolerable (this was, after all, a segment on Science). Tolerable… until the very last fraction of a second:

. . . More
Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 11759 | Comments: 13
Last by GUEST COMMENT on Jul 10, 2012, 4:25pm
I'm a young researcher. I haven't yet been around the block. I've had one research job for the past 5+ years and that has mostly been spent coordinating influenza epidemiology studies. Only recently have I jumped into the deep end of the laboratory world to tackle the second part of my dissertation.

I know IRBs really well. I've lost count how many I've have to declare war against. I know IACUCs well enough to keep our lab kosher. I know funding agencies and the stress they love to evoke. I know how to convince random people that they should participate in my study - "Help a girl graduate, please!" I know phlebotomy well enough to actually get blood. I know how to coordinate an epi study like nobody's business. I know a random set of laboratory skills, even how to harvest influenza viruses from embryonated chicken eggs.

But why did I choose to do science and public health? Honestly, I chose science because of its cool factor. I thought microbes were fascinating and I wanted to learn as much as I could about them. I can pin point my love for infectious diseases to a specific life event - choosing to do an 8th grade book report on The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. To me, the Ebola virus was fascinating and throughout high . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4988 | Comments: 1
Last by yannisguerra on Mar 23, 2011, 12:06am

I feel its time for a follow-up.

Some time ago I openly mocked Psi researchers for being charlatans. Doing so enraged a vocal minority, but more importantly it brought to my attention the (now infamous) Bem studies (here's a pretty good summary).

And so I composed a rebuttal. It was less science and more 'everyday skepticism' than I had hoped, but I didn't (nor do I currently) have the skill set to demolish it. Fortunately, smarter people than I have.

Here I intend to report on a key critique of the Bem paper. It was authored by Wagen-makers, Wetzels, Borsboom & van der Maas (2011). It is entitled Why Psychologists Must Change the Way They Analyze Their Data: The Case of Psi. Many psych people are aware of this, and much of the skeptical community, too. However, I suspect a great many people heard about these studies and, as the media and hype died away, never gave it a second (or critical) thought- presumably leaving the deceptively sweet taste of 'magic powers' lingering somewhe . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 57300 | Comments: 24
Last by Dustin L on Jul 05, 2012, 9:55am

It's generally accepted It has been demonstrated that as a nation's mean IQ increases their irreligiousity increases too (Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg, 2009). That is, there's a negative correlation between Intelligence (as measured by IQ tests) and religious beliefs (be that belief in (a) God(s), an after-life, or super-beings). The Lynn, Harvey and Nyborg (2009) paper claims the relationship between g and 'Disbelief in God' is .60. America, for whatever reason, is an outlier in this data.

Now there's likely to be 101 explanations as to why this is the case, and arguments and counter-arguments can be put forth to explain it. That particular debate is not what I'm interested in (at this very moment). What I am interested in is if the above statement is true, what else might be true? It's a controversial area of research, and so the information I could find was limited, but interesting.

Could there be some cognitive difference between non-believers and believers? Specifically, could religion influence cognitive style between the two groups. Alternatively, people could be born with a particular cognitive style which influences their religiousity, and this, I think, is an e . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 882 | Comments: 9
Last by Alchemystress on Mar 10, 2011, 9:25am
It's something I get asked quite a bit. Especially when I'm doing private dinners with friends or "Subculture Dining Events" (SCE) as a fundraiser for some University tennis club. Yes, I am a Med Student. Well, MD/PhD student. But, who amongst us is really defined by one facet of our life? And really, why should all the food sci people have all the fun? See, what I'd be doing if it wasn't medicine would definitely be molecular gastronomy. And not the fake kind you see on TV where someone dips stuff in liquid nitrogen or makes foam. Instead it would be what Dr. This works on, Dr. McGee writes about, what the people at UC Davis' Robert Mondavi Institute study. The one that breaks down the how and why of what's going on in the kitchen. Not the flashy television stuff.

In one of my bookcases at home, the bottom two shelves are taken up by 12 4" D-Ring Binders, the Thirteenth Edition of the Merck Index, a copy of McGee's On Food & Cooking, and This' Molecular Gastronomy. The Binders have Mass Spec, GC-IR, H+ and C13 NMR printouts. The printouts are arranged alphabetically by what was put in, and indexed by CAS. Yes, I took the time to make an index. It's even searchable and digital, and maybe one day I'll take the time . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4773 | Comments: 8
Last by Isabel on Mar 13, 2011, 4:59am
I'm no expert. I'm a student - an Undergrad, at that. I'm no block-busting blogger, either. I consider that I have had a bit of modest success doing what I'm doing, but still view myself on the outskirts of the scienceblogging community.

However, being both a student and one who attempts to communicate psychology has given me the opportunity to observe what people don't know about psychology, and to observe what people think they know about psychology, but are wrong.

No doubt all fields have this. The layperson likely asks chemists if they can make bombs and drugs, may ask astronomers if we can visit other planets, or ask biologists if they can create life. Sure, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it reveals ignorance. The Chemists' work may involve synthesizing organic molecules; the Astronomer spends their day examining reams of data regarding the wobbles of far off planets, and the biologist, well... Labspaces is populated with biologist - if you want the full idea.

Psychologists get asked if they can read people's minds. Yes, they're making a joke - but if their goal is to get a 30 second rundown of what psychology is, it doesn't really leave the door open.

...and the answer is yes; for a given . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3064 | Comments: 8
Last by becca on Mar 08, 2011, 12:09am

Silly analogies, I know. But it kind of gets the point across. A paper by Griskevicius et al (2006) suggests that, when individuals in a same-sex group are presented with the option of conforming or non-conforming when a sexy other is around, men and women behave differently.

Let me explain, and more importantly, let me pose a question.

Griskevicius et al (2006) conducted two studies. The first asked participants (N = 237) to rate a number of images (to determine their aesthetic preference) then placed them in a same-sex group (online; 3 members) to discuss some of the images. They participant was always last to engage in the discussion, and was basically given the option to conform to a unanimous group opinion, or non-conform (i.e. Like vs Dislike). The trick, however, is that prior to the group discussion participants were given a written scenario to imagine themselves in; the first was a 'self protective' scenario:

In the self-protective scenario, participants imagined being in a house
alone late at night. As the scenario progressed, they overheard scary noises
outside and believed that someone had entered the house. After calling out
and receiving no reply, the story ende . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2637 | Comments: 7
Last by Michael Blume on Mar 01, 2011, 1:20am
This week's guest blogger is Michael Blume who did his dissertation in scientific studies of religions (German: Religionswissenschaft) about brain sciences & religion(s). Since then, he has focused on evolutionary studies of religion and therein especially on the interactions of religious traditions and fertility as well as gender issues. Besides writing books and articles, he's blogging at (English) and (German). You can find him on Twitter @BlumeEvolution


The idea that the biological trait of religiosity and the cultural traditions of religion(s) are a result of evolutionary history still seems to be shockingly daring and new to many. But in fact, it has been there from the very start of evolutionary theory. Charles Darwin, a learned theologian, was pretty clear about it: If evolutionary theory turned out to be true, it had to be able to explain the evolution of "natural" religiosity as well as . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2080 | Comments: 23
Last by Isabel on Mar 02, 2011, 3:48pm
The following is an abridged and paraphrased conversation with a taxi driver, a white post-middle aged fellow.

Oh mate, those New Zealanders are taking a hammering, aren’t they? [referring to the recent Earth Quakes]

Yeah, pretty unfortunate. I suppose it caught them unawares.

It was lunch-time you know. It’s not like a cyclone you can see coming.

Still, they had one in September last year.

You know what I’d do, in New Zealand, I’d jump on a boat. Come to Australia. Get priority listing on housing, get welfare, get my teeth fixed.

. . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 751 | Comments: 0
Are you lucky? Perhaps you’re unlucky. What is luck, anyway?

It’s tempting to consider it as some kind of magical force present in the ether, in which some individual seem more able to channel its influence than others.

Alternatively, it may be a force unto itself, bestowing favour or ill-fortune upon those who cross its path.

Both of those definitions, however, fail under scrutiny. This does not mean that ‘luck’ does not exist, nor does it mean that belief in it cannot be beneficial (or detrimental, in the case of bad luck). Luck (in part) does depend on how you understand it.

The up-coming Psychobabble covers the topic of luck, and here I present excerpts (and a link to the full text) to an opinion piece written by Dr. Richard Wiseman. It was published in The Skeptical Enquirer (May/Jun 2003).

Now that name (The Skeptical Enquirer) may prime some... ahem... skepticism in certain folk. So I will begin at the end and work my way backwards. Wiseman concludes with this paragraph:

The project has also demonstrated how skepticism can play a positive role in people’s lives. The research
is not simply abou . . . More