I checked your archives and did not see anything that you may have done on acupuncture. I did some research myself and found conflicting studies on the efficacy of acupuncture. I am a little torn on this because while I personally can not understand how your “life force” can be disrupted by a tiny needle, I recently spent some time with people who I would not usually expect to place any credence in such a procedure but had experience and thoughts on the procedure which have given me pause.
One person having had bad back pain for years and after trying a myriad of medical procedures said that after treatment by acupuncture she was much better. She has a science background and is not an alternative medicine person – in fact, she is helping her very sick mother working closely with many doctors seeking the best traditional medical treatments.
The second person had a comment which I found very intriguing. This is a MIT PhD in physics with a long career in science – and also not a CAM person by any means. When I said that I could not understand what the underlying science is of acupuncture, he responded that while that may be true, I should not rule out thousands of years of trial and error. I am forced to see the logic in this statement – and not finding any definitive materials on the subject thought it may be something you could comment on.
Of course, if I missed a blog, please point me to it!
I also mention it frequently in other entries, but the ones above are specifically on acupuncture (14 directly addresses your question)
Regarding your two points:
- Anecdotal evidence is never compelling or definitive. You can find similar stories to support any treatment, no matter how far-fetched or even disproven. Only controlled studies can settle the question. You seem to be grossly underestimating the degree to which memory of personal experience can deceiving or just quirky.
For three thousand years the humoral theory of illness flourished in the West. Thousands of years of anecdotal trial and error were 100% wrong. Chi and acupuncture were cultural embedded ideas, perpetuated through belief, confirmation bias, subjective validation, and cultural inertia. They were not systematically tested.
Once scientific methods were used to systematically test ideas – multitudes of ideas that had previously survived for thousands of years fell one-by-one.
Finally, by coincidence, I was just asked to submit an article on reasons I do not think acupuncture works. Look for this in the near future.
Um, because I’m lazy and I’d like someone else to compile all the information, I’d love to see a series that looked at the biological and neurobiological aspects of various “mystical” experiences in a systematic way. But perhaps you’ve done this and I should just check the archives
Can you do something on placenta injections? A female friend in Korea ran out of her doctor’s office after he offered to inject her with Japanese placenta, claiming it would pretty much cure anything. Google shows others have quacky ideas. And just recently some a list hollywood star claimed placenta makes good fertilizer:
I would like to know your opinion, both as a doctor and as someone who can deconstruct an argument, about the expanding roles of and reliance on Nurse Practitioners in todays healthcare. I know that there is much debate from both the ANA and various physicians groups about whether or not the public should be treated by NPs. The most recent article against was written by a DO and can be found at the following link:
I find it a little difficult to separate the fact from the fiction regarding medical marijuana (MM). The MM movement still seems to me to mostly be about providing a legal back door to allow people to get high, but I know there have been a fair amount of studies on using marijuana to treat pain and nausea. The MM movement tends to go a little far and suggest that marijuana can cure everything. Which studies have shown real benefits from MM and have they been repeated often enough to make them fairly convincing?
it would be most interesting to read your analysis of Jill Bolte Taylor’s reflection of her stroke she has been widely expressing in media and in her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. TED has her talk, which is the most e-mailed and much discussed of all TED talks.
Her experience has been an inspiration to many people, but some say that despite of her scientific background she has taken a leap of faith into New Age mysticism.
My dad was recently diagnosed with Cerebrospinal Fluid Leaks. He’s been referred to a university hospital in North Carolina for treatment. My mom is a kind of freaked out about the whole thing and has been doing a lot of research on the internet. She explained the surgery he might go through to me, but wasn’t really sure about what type of treatment he would have.
Are you familiar with the treatment? My dad hasn’t had sinus surgery in the past, but he has had multiple strokes and did have heart bypass surgery several years ago which left him in a coma for several months during recovery, possibly resulting in additional strokes. The site of leakage is his nose and he’s apparently been having leakage for several years, although he didn’t know it was spinal fluid until about a month ago. I know the primary concern is bacterial infection, but I don’t know if there are any other risks or concerns due to his past medical history.
I’m confident that he’ll receive good treatment and I accept that there are risks to any type of treatment. I’m hoping to learn more to help put my mom at ease. My parents have a hard time accepting science and are suspicious of doctors, especially after my dad’s previous surgery.
I think a great topic for either the blog or podcast would be the recent announcement by columbia neuroscientists in which motoneurons were produced from stem cells that were derived from reprogrammed stem cells.
I´ve just left a comment on ´The Color Test´, in which I mentioned NLP. I don´t know if you know a lot about the subject, but if you do it could be an interesting topic for a post; NLP (´Neuro-Linguistic Programming´) hangs on to scientific-sounding and neuroscientific terms to give an air of credibility, promises much and can be found in various forms in both personal-empowerment literature and management seminars. The Skeptics Dictionary has a good introduction to it, and even if you don´t decide to write a post on it I´m sure you´ll find the subject interesting, as a neurologist and skeptic.
I´d also like to secind Fifi´s suggestion re: mystic experiences, mainly as I´ve had a number of very powerful ones!
Regarding mystical experiences, it is likely that some of them are mediated though the effects of NO as a neurotransmitter. Those NO effects occur at NO levels in the range of a few nM/L, (on the order of 30 parts per trillion).
Some of the physiological states associated with mystical experiences include acute fever, hypoxia, other near death experiences, following orgasm, childbirth, and meditation. Some of these are associated with high NO levels, but that association is not well understood.
I suspect that the experience of something “mystical” is to provide a rationalization for transformative changes to ways of thinking. The physiological extreme state results in a reprogramming of neural physiology that is discontinuous with neural physiology prior to experiencing the physiologically extreme state.
I suspect that the most extreme “mystical” states will occur due to high NO following extremely low NO. I see that in terms of functional connectivity (mediated largely through NO as in the fMRI BOLD measurements). Low NO causes a relative disconnection of the long range functional connectivity, in effect “re-booting” the long range functional connectivity scheme the brain is using. High NO then restores that long range connectivity, in effect restoring the integrated functioning of multiple brain regions “in sync”, but with a somewhat different connectivity.
I think this is what happens during things like Stockholm syndrome. The extreme stress of abuse causes low NO which fragments the “mind” and allows for independent activity of different brain regions to allow for better “multi-tasking” to survive the extreme stress. (I see multiple personality disorder as a manifestation of this) When the stress is reduced, the reformation of the long range connections can lead to people attaching to those who caused the stress via abuse in the first place. A useful survival feature in “the wild” where abuse of females by alpha males is not uncommon.
My wife recently gave birth to our second daughter at the beginning of June. She’s had a series of issues that are as yet un-specifically defined but are currently being termed neurological in nature.
Specifically she has an uncoordinated swallow that leaves some liquid going up rather than down and she doesn’t seem to trakc and focus as well as her peers.
Anyway, we’ve had an ultrasound (nothing found) and have an MRI, as well appointments with a neuro-opthamologist and geneticist in the coming weeks (All at Mass general Hospital in Boston).
So, our daughter general practitioner has us reading up about everything from Cerebral Palsy to mitochondrial diseases but is also cautioning that she may just be “a little behind in the curve”.
All that to get to this: She recently asked us to consider the Rotavirus vaccine but didn’t provide a lot of information about it. Instead saying we should research it on the web and let her know if we wanted to do it. She mentioned if our daughter had a mitochondrial issue that it would be important for to have had the vaccine.
So, the only things I could find about it are that it is relatively new (only 70k children have had the new vaccine) and that there is a specific time-line for when you need to take the doses. if I recall correctly the first dose was noted for 8 weeks but our daughter is currently 14 weeks old.
So, I’m not afraid of vaccines and autism and all that silly stuff, I’m just concerned that only a small amount of children have had the new vaccine and from what i read online the prior version was proven to have some issues and was removed from the market.
Do you have any thoughts/data you could share on this vaccine? And perhaps any thoughts in general on how a parent should decide when to accept a new vaccine or treatment that is on t he market? We all know that some products come to market and are later proven to cause more harm than good, even if they have been through clinical trials, but I’m guessing that is more the exception than the rule.
Thanks for your thoughts and keep up the good work!
Regarding the topic of binaural and structural integrity of brain training. There is a company known as “Volition Thought House. inc”, this company claims to have incorporated a technology known as imagince, which incorporate a series of beats that are hidden within music (giving the music slightly choppy quality) which travel through your ears and towards your brain, where it induces certain brainwaves, such as Alpha, Beta, Delta and so on. As a result, listening to their commercial products provides ‘beneficial’ results, such as increased mental capacity and speed processing, as well as a greater feel for comprehension in terms of understanding topics. These beats apparently stimulate specific brainwaves and brain activity, once again their scientific basis and justification lies in the studies shown by the EEG studies, and a series of controlled experiments conducted involving small numbers of people. Not only do they have commercial products for brain training, with the fabricated promises of increased IQ, but they have other inducing soundtracks which can either evoke an array of frequencies, such as aiding with sleep. “iMusic”, is the term used for this specific product, although there is many reviews, I believe that most of this has been fabricated to an extent. I’ve also checked some of the acclaims, and some apparent, iconic figures are seemingly non-existent.
There are also a variety of articles.
What I would like to know if is their claims of increasing IQ and cognitive function simply by listening to their music true?
I’ve already read from your previous archives, about a similar incident regarding, “Neuro Programmer 2″, but I feel this is quite different, for one, this is an entirely different company, with different principals and so called technologies for enhancing cognitive function.
There are also so many reviews, which help reinforce and justify the belief that “iMusic”, works, is this true? Or is it merely a product of the placebo effect or the expectancy effect?
Are you familiar with the claims of Suzette Foster? (http://www.suzettefoster.com/) She claims to have suffered a spinal-cord injury (she provides an MRI image as evidence) and states that she recovered through the magic of energy healing. Now, she is using her experience to recruit people suffering with SCI into “healing circles” with the promise of curing them. All for a fee, of course.
Worse, yet, she is reportedly going to receive national attention on Oprah’s radio show.
I’ve been a tetraplegic for over 14 years and have heard similar claims a thousand times before, but never suspected they might receive media attention that could provide them a modicum of legitimacy. Her claims not only dupe desperate people of their money, but also of their hope, while undermining an already ignorant public’s understanding of SCI. If she and most TV movies are to be believed, every person in a wheelchair is just too lazy, or too faithless, to cure themselves. These memes infect public perception and conceal the reality that spinal-cord injuries are devastating and, given time, fatal, because of the many respiratory, renal, and ulcer issues that occur as a result of SCI.
Could you comment on her claims, SCI, and perhaps the state of current SCI research? Thank you.
What is the responsibility of competent scientists to conduct well-designed studies on CAM? Given that money is going to be given to NCCAM and that there is loads of private funding for this research, do competent scientists have an obligation to compete for that money to do quality research on CAM, instead of letting the funds go to badly designed studies that will simply propagate misinformation? Probably best to ignore the fact that I have no idea how to ethically design an IRB protocol or informed consent for something like a homeopathy clinical trial.
Dr. Novella and anyone else with Stroop information,
I am an honor student in the 7th grade. Last year I did a science fair project on how age affects results in the Stroop color test. I won first place in my category and was lucky enough to be selected to go to the regional science fair with my project.
This year I am working on a continuation project. I am working to find out how the test was or still is used in spy work. Unfortunately, I am having trouble finding information on this subject for my research paper. Since you mention this in your posting of August 28, I am hoping that you can help me.
If you or anyone else has any information on how the Stroop test was used to detect foreign spies, or if you are familiar with resources that I can look at please post it to this site. I hope to win my school fair again this year and participate in this year’s ISEF regional science fair.
I know you have posted before on NLP in the context of mental health and counselling but I would be interested in your views on its application on other health areas, such as allergy, where NLP practioners make what seem to me to be poorly evidenced claims. See e.g. this blog post and comments:
The NLP practitioner in question has been brave enough to show up in the comments and talks quite a bit about psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which he says is a field of medical immunology. I don’t know what the standing of PNI is in medicine but it does appear popular within NLP.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on osteopathy. Is there any real distinction between the D.O. and the M.D. aside from training in OMT? Isn’t “osteopathic medicine” a philosophy-based medicine? I hear that osteopaths emphasize preventive medicine, and treat “the whole person.” Isn’t such rhetoric misleading? Why does osteopathy exist as a unique discipline?
I hope you or one of your colleagues at SBM can address this topic.
The History channel ran a program about the brain last night (November 10, 2008). In typical History channel fashion they provided some very good information and then proceeded to undermine the credibility of the entire program by including some shameless pseudoscience. They actually spent time speaking with a researcher who is convinced John Edwards is a “real medium”.
This made me wonder if there were other aspects of the program that were fallacious, but not as obvious to a non professional. I would love to hear your views if you happened to see the show.
I greatly enjoy your many blogs (where do you find the time) and podcast, keep up the good work!
I would like to hear you discuss the current state of understanding of Narcolepsy and “Idiopathic Hypersomnia”. I was diagnosed with the latter a couple years ago, and discontinued treatment recently due to a lack of progress. I spend some time on Narcolepsy message boards and hear a lot of rumors, speculation, and quotes from obscure studies. I’m very skeptical of what is true or not regarding these conditions. Thank you.
My mission as a researcher, an activist and mother of 2 vaccine-injured boys is to keep you informed and that is with articles and documents that will help you see outside the box!!!
It has been proved by many scientists, and doctors that vaccines cause brain inflammation, and micro-vascular strokes… That is where you can compare our children with people who have suffered strokes and have the same language problems… Our children’s problems are originated in the brain, Motor planning, and liver: muscle tone (mitochondrial issues)… That being said each child is different and some are affected more than others… if your child only has language delay, than you are a few of the lucky ones, some are autistic, epileptic and CP… some have a combination of this and have far more difficult road ahead… but, they can all recover, as long as we can determine the cause or origin, to work in pro of building their brains and other affected organs…
By the way, not so long ago two Mexican scientists found a possible relation between the virus that causes chickenpox, chickenpox-zó ster, and cases of multiple sclerosis in active stage.
The investigation was developed by Adolfo Martinez and Julio Sotelo, who identified the presence of the virus just chickenpox-zó ster in a group of 62 patients with multiple sclerosis when it was in active stage.
The virus of chickenpox would cause in the brain a scar that would prevent the myelin production, a protein that surrounds nervous fibers and facilitates the transmission of the nervous impulses.
The investigation was published in the Annals magazine of Neurology.
“In resistance, were not viral particles in samples of patients with multiple sclerosis in phase of remission or subjects to neurological control”, indicate the conclusions of the scientists.. .
“We considered that this is the cause. Or he will see himself if it is cause or one of the causes”, indicated Julio Sotelo. “In these initial findings he can be one neither forceful nor dogmatic one”, said the scientist.
The multiple sclerosis affects the spinal marrow and the brain, causing damages in the coordination, the balance and the memory; in addition, it hits the muscular development and the visual capacity.
Now correct me if I am wrong… but MS cases are also on the rise along with Alzheimer’s and ASD, Remember that MS and ASD share same mitochondrial issues… And the most common exposure to chickenpox this days is childhood VACCINES!!! What do you think?!!!
Here it is straight from the horse’s mouth:
The following document is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lists the inactive ingredients in vaccines along with the materials that are used to culture or grow mass quantities of vaccines.
Thanks for the original and follow-up info on Acupuncture.
How about “cold laser” therapy? I just found out that it is being used in rehabilitation of someone I know and find the plausibility that low-level light therapy has any beneficial effects to be negligible at best. (I will ignore the fact that the practitioner told the patient that they could do the procedure through clothes – seems to violate some basic principles of light!?)
Given that from my basic research, cold lasers are also being used as an alternative to needles for acupuncture, I would be curious to get your take on this device and its applicability to medicine.
Roy Asim has “finally” published his controversial theory on the brain. According to him, different parts of the brain are controlled by a master controller. I gather he repudiates the power of self-organization that we see so often in nature. It sounds like this might be right up your alley so I thought you might want to make a few comments about it.
Have you looked into the film, “The Beautiful Truth?” It appears to be a propaganda film extolling the virtues of how an organic food based diet will cure cancer. It’s getting a fare amount of press about how it “takes on the medical industrial complex.” Here’s a link to the film’s trailer and a misguided review of the film. Please shed some light on this dark, dark territory.
I have heard you say a number of times on your podcast that—as best as memory serves—“correlation is not causation.” It is a phrase which has made sense to me per your usages and I recently wanted to invoke it myself for my new blog at http://www.amorphousintelligence.wordpress.com. But I also wanted to provide a link that gave a rational justification for it. I was hoping you had written about it; alas, I was unable to find it if you had. So I checked many other science-based and skeptical blogs as well as doing a broad Google search. The closest thing I could find that was accessible to the lay reader was a Wikipedia article titled “Correlation does not imply causation,” which I at first thought was close enough. (In fact, if one types “correlation is not causation” in the search box one is directed to “Correlation does not imply causation.”) But then I heard your most recent SGU 5X5 podcast (#46 “Skepticism 101-Confusing Correlation With Causation”) in which you point out that correlation can, in fact, imply causation, so a more accurate phrasing would be “correlation is not necessarily causation.” Upon further reflection this now makes even more sense than the aforementioned phrase (which makes me wonder if all this time you had been saying “necessarily” and I just hadn’t clued in to it). Which now leads to the two points of my writing you: First, given the apparent inaccuracy of the Wikipedia article, I recommend that you try to fix that article or write a wholly different one altogether. (I would gladly do it myself but it seems you are far more qualified than I.) And second—especially if revising/rewriting the Wikipedia article is too much effort—might I recommend that you blog about this phrase? It strikes me as a highly useful phrase that the average person can find an application for its usage on a near daily basis which, in fact, I do use on a near daily basis. For us lay skeptics it would be nice to have an authoritative, easily readable article to point others to, though. (And yes, I understand authority is not science, but it does persuade.) It would be especially helpful to say something like: “What? Don’t believe me? Check it out on Wikipedia.” After all, if Wikipedia says it, it must be true.
Has all the earmarks of of quackery based in ignorance (and sounds remarkably like the anti-vaccine screeds), how ADHD doesn’t exist, it’s all a massive criminal conspiracy between “big pharma” and the government, and it can all be cured with a diet change and it’s all the fault of boring schools anyway.
And the very specific claim that Ritalin causes stunted growth in children.
As you may or may not know, David Kirby has been posting to Huffington Post almost weekly regarding the vaccine/autism connection fallacy. I know you’ve addressed this topic many times before, and I have been attempting to be a counter, however small, to all the misinformed posters lauding Mr. Kirby’s assertions. As expected, most of those supporting him are the same dozen or so, but there is an alarmingly growing number of people claiming that because of theses articles they are now concerned about vaccinating their children. I know all that can be a ruse to feign larger support, but it still concerns me that Mr. Kirby isn’t being refuted by a knowledgeable source.
With respect, I am imploring you to please attempt a rebuttal, or at least try to get an authority in this specific field to write an article that calls out the fallacies in the anti-vaccination argument. I am troubled by Huffington Post’s continually giving Mr. Kirby an opportunity to feed this conspiracy (and his book sales). I think it could be argued as irresponsible, if not dangerous, as the ramifications are huge to the public health.
Thank you, as well as all the Skeptical Rogues, for all that you do, and as a big fan I hope to meet you all soon someday!
I received a recent one from my sister, detailing the threat of receiving a business card from a stranger, that may be dosed with Burundanga (aka: Scopolamine/Datura) and will render the subject almost instantly intoxicated.
What alarms me about this sort of thing, is that there is usually a grain of truth somewhere. Yes, scopolamine can be used as a “date rape drug”, but ten minutes on the internet will reveal that it can’t be absorbed in transdermal fashion in sufficient quantities to cause intoxication and that the e-mail is an established hoax.
Looking at the e-mail itself, my sister appears to have received her copy of the message from a serving police officer (a detective no less). You really would expect the police to be a bit more critical in their thinking before sending out this sort of thing.
I’d like to suggest an article (or Podcast segment) on the recent Nature paper suggesting that use of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall by people wishing to improve cognative ability should be legalised.
Jenny McCarthy has been sharing her medical expertise via the Oprah show, Larry King, etc., and now her boyfriend, Jim Carrey, is getting in on the act. Here’s some fascinating medical advice from Jim Carry in the current issue of Us Magazine:
“At the risk of like opening up the whole Tom Cruise Prozac argument, you know, I don’t disagree in many ways,” Jim Carrey said. “I think Prozac and things like that are very valuable to people for short periods of time. But I believe if you’re on them for an extended period of time, you never get to the problem.
“You never get to see what the problem is, because everything is just kind of OK,” he said. “And so, you don’t deal. And people deal when they get desperate.”
Carrey’s solution: “Supplements,” he said.
“It is vitamins. But it’s also certain elements of the brain like Tyrosine and hydroxytryptophan that they’re treating depression with now,” he said. “It is a natural substance that’s in your brain. Instead of being a Serotonin inhibitor, which just uses the serotonin you have and Prozac and things like that — it just uses the Serotonin you have and it doesn’t allow it go back into the receptor.
“It metabolizes your serotonin after a while and you have to keep taking more and more to feel good.
“This actually creates dopamine and creates serotonin,” Carrey continued. “It’s a wonderful thing. It’s amazing. I’m going to talk a lot about it in the near future.”
Oh, and I would like to second the suggestion from SatansParkakeet on 8-14-08. When my mother was dying of cancer in the 1990s, she had a prescription for Marinol, which I understood to be “medical marijuana” in pill form. If this is already available legally, why are people still fighting to make marijuana legal for medical purposes? Why do they insist on the smokeable kind?
I’d like to have a reading list for people with a scientific interest but who are not trained scientists. For example, I’m a special education teacher. I have not trained in the hard sciences nor did I take anything but 100-200 level science classes when I was in college.
If you had a list of 12 books, we could read one each month. At the end of that month, you could write a blog using the knowledge base gained from that book. Of course, I’m thinking like an old-timer. You could just as well have links listed that need to be digested before reading the target blog.
If you posted the book 6 weeks in advance, for example, we could get the book from Amazon and read it by the time the target blog comes out.
There is a recent death in the news, John Travolta’s son, reportedly due to a seizure secondary to Kawasaki Syndrome. It is an interesting case because the Kawasaki Syndrome was reportedly improved by a detox system based on Scientology.
I am an esthetician (facialist) and am constantly confronted with pseudoscience in the spa industry. I would love to hear your thoughts on:
- salicylic acid versus willow bark extract (it’s my understanding that salicylic acid is derived from willow bark and that both are anti-inflammatories related to aspirin, but the true-believers say that willow bark is gentler, healthier, and just as effective because it is more.. ahem.. natural)
- lymphatic massage for normal, healthy individuals
- high frequency therapy done to eliminate acne
- colloidal silver used topically (not internally)
I also consider myself a feminist and it saddens me that the beauty industry does such a good job of convincing women (who, as a whole, are already behind their male counterparts in savings and investings) to turn over their hard-earned cash for questionable treatments. I try to do my best to bring reason to my industry, but it is a constant battle.
Aspirin is the brand name of a very well known salicylate-containing tablet introduced in 1899.
Aspirin is named so after Spirea ulmaria (meadowseet, today Filipendula ulmaria) that is another salicinproducing plant.
The active compound in these plants, among which the willow is probably most know, is salicin that will be metabolized to salicylic acid in the body.
Yes the extract should be milder. According to Akao et al “[salicylic acid] appeared slowly in the plasma and levels increased gradually, in contrast to the rapid appearance observed after oral administration of sodium salicylate… [salicin] did not induce gastric lesions even at a dose of 5 mmol/kg; conversely, ["aspirin/salicylic acid"] induced severe gastric lesions in a dose-dependent manner at 1, 2.5 and 5 mmol/kg. …These results indicate that [salicin] is a prodrug which is gradually transported to the lower part of the intestine, hydrolyzed to [saligenin] by intestinal bacteria, and converted to [salicicylic acid] after absorption. It thus produces an antipyretic action without causing gastric injury.”
In sum taking salicin is “milder” as it does not get metabolized into salicylic acid until in the bloodstream, while aspirin means salicylic acid is directly ingested into the stomach and can cause upset. This probably also means that salicylate poisoning is less likely as concentrations are lower.
Planta Med. 2002 Aug;68(8):714-8. Evaluation of salicin as an antipyretic prodrug that does not cause gastric injury. Akao T, Yoshino T, Kobashi K, Hattori M.
Write about the New York Time’ latest op-ed contributor, Bono. It doesn’t have to be off topic.
Bono is a terrific lyricist, as evidenced by the millions of CDs and albums he’s sold. So why was his first op-ed a muddled, incoherent, unreadable mess? Could it be that the skills we possess in one area do not necessarily translate into another, seemingly related area?
Thus we have competent chemistry department chairs pumping out muddled, incoherent papers on autism. And chiropractors sharing worthless advice on nutrition and toxicology with parents of autistic children.
The NY Times will soon enough realize its mistake, and replace Bono with an bona fide essayist. Anti-vaxers will take longer.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the increased use of non-invasive diagnostic medical imaging use and the movement of imaging studies out of the radiology reading room and into the practicing physician’s office.
We (FiatLux Imagine ) have used computer gaming technology, in the form of Direct X, to harness the inate capability of everyday computers to provide 2D and 3D rendering capabilities to view these medical images in any location, independent of costly specialized servers. By doing this at an affordable price, we see an ability to provide medical images anywhere, anytime, to any practicioner.
With the ever increasing ability to diagnostically peer inside the body, and with the increasing technical ability to render those images into physiologic appearing 3D volumes,an ever increasing number of specialties are now proficient at doing their own interpretations and moving ahead with treatment regimes and surgical planning.
I have done some rudimentary digging and can’t find much in the way of reliable information regarding the “Post-Massage Malaise” that many masseurs warn against. They profess it’s due to released toxins…so a real explanation is certainly lacking. I’d love to read your thoughts on it.
I was recently struck by the current TV commercial war between Campbell’s Soup and Progresso Soup over inclusion of MSG. Campbell’s Soup trumpets the ‘All Natural- no MSG’ line, and Progresso goes with the ‘more people prefer their taste’ approach.
What caught my interest was what’s really wrong with MSG anyway? So I did a little research, since I had heard MSG being used as a ‘bad guy’ ingredient for many years, and I found out that, while it has been suspected as a headache and asthma trigger in the past, there doesn’t appear to be any well controlled studies to bear this out.
Is this a case of anecdotal stories and ‘common knowledge’ maligning a perfectly good flavor additive that adds the UMAMI taste to foods, or is there any really good reason for people to avoid it? FYI, I have no dog in this fight except to know the facts.
mindme, I do not have time to read the paper, but at a first glance it is on a condition that is not well defined and with subjective data points, as noted here:
“Tender point count and tender point pain on examination by a medical assessor uninvolved in providing care, self-rating scales on fibromyalgia-related quality of life, pain, mood and global health at baseline and 3 months, were the primary clinical outcome measures for this report.”
It is the “self-rating” scale that makes it not so good.
For a better idea read the book “Snake Oil Science” by R Barker Bausell.
In your recent discussion with a Creationist blogger, he avoided actually answering your challenge by dropping some random questions, one of which ran along the lines of “How do you explain the origin of the Universe?”.
Although it had nothing to do with the subject at hand at that time, it does represent an interesting question.
I think I remember reading something on this in Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion”, although it might have been another book I was reading at that time. I think I remember that he wrote about a couple of different possible explanations being explored on this, and I remember distinctly that they had to do with the properties of vacuum (symmetry). I’ll do my homework and look for this reference, but I did want to ask you if you have some reading material on this, or can reference me to a good source, and most importantly, blog about it or discuss it in the Skeptics Guide.
Thank you for your time and the guiding beacon you represent to all of us Skeptics out here.
Steve, have you ever done any research on, or are you aware of any good research on candida and “the candida diet”. A friend of mine went to a alt medicine practitioner who used a vega machine to diagnose her with candida (amongst other thing). I have been trying to find some solid information and research on this condition and the supposed diet-cure but have been unable to find anything worthwhile on the net. Thanks.
I have been a vegan for 7 years and a vegetarian for 13 before that. I would be interested in hearing your perspective on the science behind the John McDougall and Dean Ornish diets, as well as the research conducted by Colin T. Campbell (author of The China Study) and Neal Barnard (who is the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). All of these individuals advocate the importance of a vegetarian/vegan diet for optimal health. I have always been impressed at the quality of the scientific/medical research on which they draw. I’d love to hear your take on the science that these individuals use to promote their position.
Now I think his stance here is a little bit too far (Alone, on the whole, seems to indulge in the Galileo Fallacy– “my ideas are unpopular and marginal, and thus must be right”), but it does make me ask:
How can a layman spot bias in a study? You’ve written a few times (as have others) on how the media spins research, but if I go to the original paper to get past that how do I tell if the writer of that paper isn’t working an agenda beyond testing a hypothesis?
There is a recent article in the New Atlantis (link) called “Why Minds Are Not Like Computers”, that I think is problematic. There are bits, such as…
… arguments for strong AI typically describe the lowest levels of the mind in order to assert its mechanical nature. The rhetoric of mechanism pervades the writing of AI believers, who claim again and again that the brain is a machine. In his 2002 book Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us, roboticist Rodney Brooks declares that “the body, this mass of biomolecules, is a machine that acts according to a set of specifiable rules,” and hence that “we, all of us, overanthropomorphize humans, who are after all mere machines.” The mind, then, must also be a machine, and thus must be describable in computational terms just as the brain supposedly is.
Both these positions fail to acknowledge that the mind may be simultaneously like and unlike a machine, depending on the level at which it is being described. That is, perhaps it is the case that the highest levels of mentation cannot be described in computational terms, but some lower level can.
I think there is something slippery going on here- if I understand it correctly, all that we mean when describing “mind as machine”, is that a scientific account of the proccesses in a mind must be mechanistic. The article suggests that at some point, the mind is becomes so complicated that it’s somehow not mechanistic any more.
This suggestion that the minds processes can be explained without reference to its underlying physical components strikes me as a not very scientific position to take, and similar in spirit to arguments against evolution, that life could be “so complicated” that it’s impossible that natural systems could describe. But it’s also a fairly well written piece, and on my readings the problem is really difficult to unpack, so I thought it might be of interest here.
I had a relative with a significant alcohol problem and I was shocked at how little connection there seemed to be between the academic research and the firmly held beliefs surrounding treatment.
In the uk it’s unacceptable for a medical proffessional to push religion, yet the spiritual cure for a frequently sloppily diagnosed ‘disease’ (or even worse ‘spiritual disease’) seems widespread even in the state provision of healthcare. Things are changing but slowly but over the years that have since past I have still never encountered such an odd mix of disease versus behaviour and state funded spiritual cure, often mixed with secular, medical solutions.
It’s a can of worms to be sure – but for an innate skeptic it seemed a shocking state of affairs in such a widespread and actually well researched issue.
The preceding article discusses a study that appears show that being raised in poverty can result in lower working memory as an adult due to stress, caused by poverty, on adolescent brains. If true, the findings have many interesting implications.
I would love to get your take on the article, the underlying study, and the potential implications of the research.
The study, as given at the end of the article is:
“Childhood poverty, chronic stress, and adult working memory.” By Gary W. Evans and Michelle A. Schamberg. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 106 No. 13, March 30, 2009.
I would love to see a post regarding mitochondrial disease. I had never heard it until it took our daughter’s life. Treatment is vague and a cure seems to be nowhere in site. I have read everything there is to read but I would like to know more about what is up and coming in terms of testing. UMDF has been a great resource but I need more.
My boyfriend had an interesting discussion regarding his theory that people who truly believe that they can see auras, may be suffering a neurological condition, specifically synesthesia. We both said “I wonder what Steve would say about that?”. Thanks!
Here in San Diego a man who ran a CAM clinic and sold “drugs” to people in and out of the area is being prosecuted for, amongst other things, practicing without a license. His Name is Kurt Donsbach and he actually ran a clinic in Mexico where Coretta Scott King died from cancer while receiving his “treatments”.
Included in the comments of the article was the post that I pasted below from John Hammell, the President of the International Advocates for Health Freedom. In it, he mentions some pretty scary ways for CAM proponents to dodge prosecution…
“Mexican authorities will allow any clinic to remain open if it pays the bribe money unless they’re leaned on by US Authorities to shut a clinic down. Mexico is a totally corrupt country, but then so is the USA. You can’t judge any clinic just because the Mexican government shut it down. There are a lot of very good clinics in Mexico that aren’t operating in the USA due to major corruption in the USA that suppresses alternative treatment modes employing the use of treatments that threaten pharmaceutical profits. These suppressed treatments include bioxidative treatments such as ozone and hydrogen peroxide. Cancer is anaerobic, it can’t live in the presence of oxygen, but no money can be made off these treatments which play hob with Big Pharma’s money game. Don’t kid yourself, the pharmaceutical industry and mainstream medicine are like the mafia. They wield enormous political power, and thats NOT in our best interests. I once worked for Kurt Donsbach at his Hospital in Rosarito Beach. I witnessed the man save a lot of lives. He is not a criminal, the AMA are criminals, mainstream medicine is chock full of criminals who do everything humanly possible to maintain their monopoly at our expense.
Donsbach should have joined the Nemenhah Band of the Native American Church. He would have come under the protection of a Supreme Court Decision (Gonzalez v O Centro) that extends only to members in good standing in the Native American Church, which anyone can join, regardless of whether or not they have so much as a drop of Native Blood. In Ohio, a woman who was charged recently with “practicing medicine without a license” was apologized to by the Judge when she explained to him that she was under the protection of this Supreme Court Decision and that he had no jurisdiction over her: http://www.nemenhah.org
Any alternative practitioner reading this should join so as to avoid Donsbach’s fate. What happened to him didn’t have to happen. This Supreme Court decision allows members of the Native American Church to consider any substance to be a sacrament used for healing, including peyote and marijuana, and this extends to all substances sold in health food stores. Supplement manufacturers should join and set up Buyers Clubs that only members in the Nemenhah band could enter. This would remove them from FDA jurisdiction so they could then make medicinal claims on product labels. They would be allowed to do this because they would not have entered into interstate commerce, so FDA would have no jurisdiction. See http://www.nemenhah.org/internal/resources.html
John Hammell, President
International Advocates for Health Freedom
One of my ‘the truth is out there’ friends sent me a link to a film on youtube about how the universe and intention (mind power) are connected and one can physically influence the other, it’s called The Science of Miracles.
I have not watched the whole series (there are eight episodes), but in the first episode, the narrator claims one of the studies that supports this theory is a russian study that has been coined the ‘Phantom DNA’ study. The scientist, who ‘published’ the study from what I think is a russian university that specializes in ‘psychic phenomena’, is Pjotr Garjajev.
This study is being retro-fitted into some old psuedo-scientific favorites and my bologna detector is ringing like crazy.
I’ve been looking into Live blood/cell analysis recently. My first stop was a search of your blog (long time reader, first time poster, that sorta thing) but couldn’t find anything.
After coming across some investigative sites I found that the wikipedia page seems to sum up the field well with:
Live blood analysis is an unestablished diagnostic test promoted by some alternative medicine practitioners, who assert that it can diagnose a range of diseases. There is no scientific evidence that live blood analysis can detect any disease state, and it has been described by medical authorities as a fraudulent means of convincing a patient that they are ill and require treatment with dietary supplements.
As you follow anti-vaccine rhetoric more than I do, I am curious if you know anything about a particular part of it. Have any anti-vaccination campaigners ever suggested any sort of idea as to how their chosen bug-bear caused autism? As in, which chemicals had what effect on the body, and the way this caused the child to develop the traits specific to the spectrum of autism?
Or is the claim of correlation usually considered sufficient?
I recently came across a book by Robert Mellilo titled ‘Disconnected Kids’.
in it he claims something called the brain balance program can eliminate something called functional disconnection syndrome.
I am all of 10 pages in and my skeptic alarm has sounded at least 3 times, particularly when he claims that he has reversed autism in a thousand patients and when he claimed that adhd autism, tourettes and ocd all have the same root cause.
just wondering if anyone has come across this. from what i gather, without reading too much farther, he is advocating various brain exersices, so i don’t know if there is any harm in it even though he appears to be Jenny McCarthy level crazy.
again, just wondering if you or anyone else here has come across this guy. ran a few web searches and couldn’t come up with any skeptic viewpoints.
“While the self-styled animal communicator from North Bondi can communicate with living animals…”
I cannot believe I am reading these words? What a credulous, lazy and demonstrably false statement to make! Never in the history of the human species has anyone ever been able to demonstrate, under proper controlled, blinded conditions that there is any reason to believe that the is such a thing as a psychic. In every single case, psychics are either calculated liars using cold reading techniques, or deluded.
The statement above asks us to accept that this person can ‘read the minds’ of animals, and that the ‘phenomena’ is real. Why havn’t they claimed James Randi’s $1M prize then?
No wonder the ‘journalist’ makes the statement “…and please be nice”. They know this intellectually lazy, clap-trap is going to get slammed for the waste of time it is. Please don’t make things worse by promoting these deceptive, morally bankrupt frauds.
Quirks and Quarks is a science series on CBC radio. It has a good reputation for popularizing credible science, so I was surprised to hear that the title of one of the segments on 2 May was “Fever & Autism” (mp3). I feared that it was going to be about a disease-based claim for the cause for autism. However, it turned out to be an interview with Dr. Dominick Purpura about his hypothesis that, if many autistic children exhibit reduced autistic behaviours when they have fevers, then perhaps autism is caused by a developmental dysregulation related to the locus coeruleus. He admits that he has lots of testing ahead of him to see if there is any merit in his idea. Since the story was about neurology and autism, I thought you might be interested.
I’m curious about veterinary woo– “alternative” medicine for pets. I’ve gotten into some arguments about this, and have referred people to whatstheharm.net though this only has human examples of possible harm from chiropracty, homeopapthy, acupuncture, etc. that is now being applied to pets. I haven’t been able to find studies on this, and any discussion in the media are anecdotes about how it “works.” I know this isn’t your specialty, but do you know of any studies or even real-life examples that I could use in the future? Any strategies for discussing this with folks who argue that as long as you also see a traditional vet, what could go wrong?
Medical woo is always upsetting, but it really bothers me when its applied to animals (and children) who don’t have a say!
Sorry, I just thought of one little addition that might make the topic I suggested above more interesting to blog about:
From my scattered reading on the vet woo issue, it seems like vet medicine is often operating in a fairly evidence-poor environment, especially on issues of nutrition and pain management. How should a skeptic go about choosing vet care under these circumstances? One argument I’ve heard about some of these treatments is that though they’re not science “yet,” science changes. My alarm bells go off when it is some homeopathic remedy they are talking about, but under what circumstances would it be ok to try a treatment that hasn’t been scientifically proven, given a general lack of research?
Perhaps you can write on the water fluoridation issue? (And other sources of fluoride/fluoridation) There is so much information it is difficult to separate the facts from the myths. What is the history of the fluoridation practice? Are there health risks? Is it a case of unethical mass medicating? what are your own ideas? how has the issue been distorted by media, special interest groups, individuals, conspiracists etc.
I stumbled upon a site on CAM for Swine Flu. Among the usual homeopathy nonsense I found something new (for me at least):
Emotional Freedom Techniques.
“There are many accounts of reduction in symptoms using EFT. Although it takes a few minutes to learn the fingertip tapping sequence, it is free to the public and always available.”
A few minutes! Woohoo!
I then googled EFT and found it’s proponents, among them Deepak Chopra, claim it can “influence gene activity”, cure “everything from the common cold to multiple sclerosis”, “fear, trauma, depression, grief and schizophrenia”.
But it doesn’t stop there. There is a series of videos you have to see over at emofree dot com / freevideos.aspx – the video with the vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder is disturbing on so many levels.
Basically, EFT “works” by tapping “energy centers” with the fingers. It’s like accupuncture for belonophobics.
I am sure you will have a field day with this monstrous load of nonsense.
I searched through the archives and the SGU podcasts but couldn’t see if you have touched upon it already.
First, I want to thank you and your compatriots at NESS for the weekly podcasts and your tireless advancement of reason over irrationality. It’s a great comfort to me, someone who doesn’t work in a scientific setting and is confronted with irrational, magical thinking by people on a day to day basis.
On to my question. I stumbled across an idea being promoted by Bruce Lipton, Ph. D. that smacks of pseudo-science and I wondered what you might have to say about it. Lipton’s argument is that “mind” is a factor in epigenetics, via our subconscious thoughts mainly. He posits that we can avoid disease and heal ourselves via “mind’s” interaction with genes, with the mind commanding the use of various genes as blueprints for protein production that would be better for us versus the blind, predisposed march of genetics.
He goes on to claim that theory is supported by the concept of epigenetics and is proven by the placebo effect. My skeptical “spidey sense” tells me this is probably nonsense and that the elephantine concept he’s trying to get by me is the existence of “mind” – which I see you debate on the site. Seems to me to be typical new ager nonsense. When you boil the argument down, it’s essentially that some entity or emergent property that can’t be explained is actually in control of our physical existence and that we can control it by some equally opaque process that at it’s best is a black box or at worst a “then some magic happens” step in the theory he’s positing.
Care to comment? I’d appreciate it. Again, thanks!
Would love to hear your thoughts on this piece from NPR (see link below), especially the details of Dean Radin’s study and its findings mentioned toward the end. I know why the quantum entanglement hypothesis is bologna, but any skeptical thoughts on the following?:
“After running 36 couples through this test, the researchers found that when one person focused his thoughts on his partner, the partner’s blood flow and perspiration dramatically changed within two seconds. The odds of this happening by chance were 1 in 11,000. Three dozen double blind, randomized studies by such institutions as the University of Washington and the University of Edinburgh have reported similar results.”
read your thoughts on stem cell treatment in china, and one reader’s comment that he just sat back and let his kid die rather than pursue a longshot. i’ve been trying to help a 28 year old bulgarian girl with sma type 2. her doctors tell her there’s nothing she can do, so she is fund raising for treatment at beike. she’s only set on that option because nobody has offered up any alternatives. what do you suggest to someone who doesn’t want to sit back and die? i agree that it’s unproven, maybe a total fraud, but what else is there. i thought maybe she should try to get her hands on a drug being tested for similar conditions, like iplex, but even that isn’t safe or easy to find.
I’m a 22 year-old university student from canada, and I love you blog. Refreshing and intelligent writing.
I would love to see what you have to say about the persistent fear-mongering urban legend that radiation from wireless devices like cellphones and wifi routers causes every terrifying disease under the sun.
To be honest, this seems like a very damaging idea. It has already caused several towns and cities to rescind their plans to increase wifi coverage, sometimes even banning it completely. Its a global phenomenon, and unlike many pseudo-scientific conspiracy theories, these ones do use some scientific data (sufficient or not).
This idea is spreading and as a prominent scientist with a relevant specialization I think it would be useful for you to weigh in on the issue.
A topic I haven’t seen addressed on skeptical blogs yet is the efficacy of gastric bypass for long term weight loss. There’s a number of people on the internet (such as http://www.sizewise.com/docs/wls.html) who claim there is no weight loss benefit and the complications just horribly awful. I have no doubt some gastric bypass patients do suffer from serious complications. But trustworthy sources on weight loss results and complication rates are hard to come by.
Most of the interventions are undoubtedly good things, like daily bathing and thorough cleaning of patient rooms. But the yogurt and the pH balanced soap? I’d assume staph operates within the same pH range that we do.
I’ve sent this to Quackwatch, SGU forums, & Respectful Insolence. I hope someone with a big following starts talking about it. This autism clinic (!) in Austin is getting sued because it told a man he had Alzheimer’s & then chelated him for 10 months.
This spreading of the chelation market is very creepy to me. Writing this I remembered that I recently saw something at Age of Autism linking heavy metals & ALS. ( I troll there periodically to see what people are saying. I work with a number of well-off autistic kids, so I try to keep up with the fads).
I was wondering if you or any of the other bloggers on SBM have tackled the topic of “medical foods”? It seems to me that this is just a method to get FDA approval for a product without going through the same rigorous clinical trial process that a drug must endure. It also seems to be a potential way to give CAM therapies a patina of legitimacy that is not valid. Case in point – Axona. Thanks for all the work you and the others do!
Yesterday I was listening to Obama’s address to the Nation about health care reform. One point he emphasized was in order to pay for the new plan was to re-allocate money from programs that have proven not to work. A few things came to mind: abstinence education and alternative medicine. Could Obama’s new health care reform be the death blow to alternative medicine if the government refuses to cover payment for it?
I recently got into an argument about critical thinking and neuroscience. I tried to take the stand that critical thinking was a skill and firmly in the nurture camp. Others thought that critical thinking had (and I really hope I’m not misrepresenting their argument) a biological basis. (i.e. that some people by the virtue of their brains are better at it)
When I returned home I tried to find research on the subject, and I can’t find any. Is there any research on this question? What would your thoughts be on the subject?
Thanks for the great blog and podcast,
I don’t have access to the full study so I can’t really gauge anything here – and it would seem to contradict a recent post on your blog linking to a study showing low-level thimerosal exposure to kids in Boston having no such effects….
Do you know anything about the journal it was published in?
A friend of mine is interested in the research of Daniel Amen (www.amenclinics.com) and Guy Berard (“auditory integration”). Both look extremely shady to me. I’d be very interested to get your expert opinion on their claims so I could respond to my friend with some specifics. There was a show on PBS recently about Amen, so I expect your comments on him would be of interest to many people besides me.
Placebos are getting more effective? Most of the references to that are related to depression drugs. One cannot help but wonder if this is because depression is over diagnosed, at least in some areas. If you’re told you have depression, you’re likely to believe it (the “nocebo effect”). Then you get drugs that you’re told will make you better, so you feel better. For those on real trial drugs, at least some of them will suffer from the very real side effects, which could well lead to making the depression symtoms (real or imagined) worse.
Recently in my philosophy class we discussed conciousness. It really urked me because they were using it as proof of a dualistic univerise, because it couldn’t be reduced to smaller parts. Has neuroscience got anything to say on the topic?
I was given a book called In the Beginning: Biblical Creation and Science by Nathan Aviezer. Aviezer accepts evolution and seems pretty pro-science, but the book argues for a reinterpretation of the Genesis account as a metaphor for what science has discovered about the ancient past. The science in the book is pretty basic, but there’s one part I wasn’t sure about as my knowledge of biochemistry doesn’t extend very far. Aviezer writes:
“[L]iving cells need both proteins and nucleic acids … [but] neither of these complex molecules can have produced without the other. Therefore, it follows that life could not have developed from inanimate matter because inanimate matter contains neither proteins nor nucleic acids.”
Aviezer solves the paradox with a “God of the gaps” conclusion, but I’m curious about whether what was quoted about is an accurate description of the present understanding of biochemists.
Not sure it commands a whole post entry, but it might be nice to acknowledge the death this weekend of a science giant who is virtually unknown to the general public. Norman Borlaug has died, aged 95 years. Rest in peace.
The Slashdot bit was fun, the article was pretty good, but the paper itself was outstanding. It’s 80 pages long and I read the entire thing in one 2 hour sitting. What struck me about the article was its sober parsing of the controversy, the science, and the relevant personalities, and the way it weighed issues rationally against each other while describing, in great detail, all of the logical fallacies and cognitive errors that could come into play.
Frankly, I thought the author sounded very much like you, Dr. Novella… except he seems to come to different conclusions than you do on the topic of the LHC (specifically, he knows he is unqualified to make a determination on the safety of LHC but makes a convincing argument that the case should be decided in court).
If you have the time and inclination, I encourage you to read it and possibly discuss it on your blog. Even if you don’t have an opportunity to read the whole thing, the MIT piece does a decent job of distilling it, but you’d be cheating yourself out of a great read.
I am new to the Skeptic community and am unaware of another blogger who tackles themes of immigration/racism. Perhaps something you could have a look at if you are in need of a topic is a video currently circulating (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3X5hIFXYU).
I found some of the assertions in the video suspicious. For example a supposed quote from the German office of statistics and census (I am paraphrasing the title of the office) citing unsustainable fertility levels. I have searched the offices website and find no direct link to any such study.
An additional assertion was that France “as we know it” would be extinct in precisely 39 years.
I have no evidence yet to hold these claims in refute though I am, well, skeptical of them.
Hi all, just joined the site as i am looking for opinion on something myself and others may have discovered that is not yes oriented.
i invite you to watch this video, the technique can be repeated anywhere in the world and is 100% succesful so what are we filming, instructions are provided if you wish to try yourself and I hope that you do.
Ignore the small white dots, I cannot prove they are not insects so will accept they may as well be.
Perhaps the objects are due to camera distortion somehow but the same objects have been filmed in different parts of the world, maybe a new species of animal? I dont know.
I am convinced they are not green/grey dudes in space ships but am leaning to a kind of life that inhabits our atmosphere , they are visible in Infa Red but not clearly in visible light so are hard to see with our eyes, easy with a camera.
i have provided a quick demo on how the camera picks up IR at the end of the 1st video.
Anyone can video them, no cgi is used, try for yourself and decide what you think.
If its a new species of animal, I want one named after me.
The assassination of JFK. I noticed you and an emailer discussed it briefly. If it has been examined elsewhere on your website, I haven’t found it. I appreciate your scholarship.
Several issues trouble me.
1.) Marina’s involvement with Lee; her answers to the WC, the SS and the HSCA.
2.) The condition of the bullet after it penetrated JFK and Connally.
3.) The direction of the break in Connally’s radius and the trajectory of the missile.
4.) Statements made by Dr. Gregory and other M.D.s regarding the probability that WC Exhibit 399 caused all the wounds in JFK’s back/neck and Connally’s torso, right forearm and left thigh.
5.) Bertrand Russell’s questions, particularly on the appearance of a conflict of interest with the investigators and the government that assigned them.
a presentation from David Blaine was recently posted on the TED.com website. In it, he explains how he successfully held his breath for 17 minutes on an Oprah Winfrey show. He explained his technique for pulling it off. Should one believe him? Does it defy current medical understanding? He did say that he consulted neurologists and other doctors in his preparations for this stunt.
I thought that if a magician explains the secret to his/her trick, you can usually be sure that the explanation given isn’t the actual secret at all. Rather, it is a means to propel the mystery and awe further.
Just came accross Oxytocin. Here is a brief summary that I think I know.
Our bodies can produce it. If it is given to a person as a nasal spray for example, it can increase empathy, reduce fear etc.
So I was thinking. How much is empathy something that is a chemical reaction and how much can it be learned? Is learned empathy someways different? Should it be called something else? If you increase your ability to empathize by, lets say, working in a place where you can help people out, is it somehow different if you just “take a hit from the ol’ Oxytocin bottle”?
How would “Oxytocin shots” help for example prisoners to become “better humans”?
Hey love your blog… I’ve got a few suggestions.
1. Often psychology & psychotherapy is attacked for not being backed up by tangible proof of efficacy. However, Freud argues in his introduction to Lectures on Psycho-Analysis that this is because psycho-analysis and its use cannot be demonstrated to the public as that would be a breach of ethics–it can only be described. What do you think as a neurologist & a skeptic about psychology’s merits as a discipline or as a practice?
2. I was having trouble earlier this year because I would struggle staying awake after 10 hours of sleep a night with 30 min. naps around 3:00. I went to my neurologist (who I was originally referred to for migraine problems) and he prescribed Concerta (methylphenidate HCl). He then described to me in such non chalante tones how he often self-medicates with it when he needs to focus. What do you think about the off-label use of Alzheimer’s of ADHD drugs as so-called “brain boosters”?
3. There is a lot of crap out there as far as the dietary benefits of Ginseng, Mate Vana, herbal remedies, and antioxidants as far as their effects on overall health & longevity. Obviously these things cannot be taken seriously, but what can you, as a doctor, tell us about increasing longevity & bodily health? Do we stick to conservative, recognized pillars of good health, or can we do something more?
4. I have been reading Think Smart by Richard Restak, M.D. and Brain Rules by John Medina, and what struck me most (more from Brain Rules) was the mass of knowledge on how to teach and learn, and how little these facts are being applied. Especially in the realm of math & science, I have noticed that my teachers (11th grade) seek to assign work and get through the day as opposed to teaching fundamental concepts. For example, my anatomy & physiology teacher bases his class solely on the rote memorization of muscle names (he doesn’t even explain how they were named; this would help immensely), while half the class still does not understand how a muscle contracts. I know you already did a piece on science education, but I am curious to know what measures should be implemented to make for a more educated America in the subjects of the future.
Thanks, hope you read this
We need some help to reach the growing community of energy conscientious consumers, motivated by government stimulus, who do not know much about electricity and are vulnerable to these scam people who prey on misfortune.
Many of the web sites promoting these products are in fact affiliates, out of work people, duped into buying a web business that is now the perpetuation of a scam based on a scam.
I just ran across this blog and thought this might be an interesting topic to cover since it talks about why Dr. Lawrence Dubuske resigned from Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s hospital when they recently changed the rules regarding taking money from pharmaceutical companies. Also, Dr. Carlat and his efforts seem worthy of a post themselves. (Sure it’s fun to castigate the woo merchants, they’re easy targets, but it’s also good to promote those fighting the good fight and to make it clear that there are many doctors and psychiatrists doing this!)
Now I am no fan of Monsanto but given that the Huff Post is completely run over with wacko’s my assumption is that whatever they say is opposite the truth. On the other hand even the National Inquirer occasionally gets it right (John Edwards love child).
So I would appreciate it if you could review the study and let me/us know. If you are aware of any rational fair minded report that could explain it in layman terms, that would also be great.
Thanks for being a voice of reason in the world of illogic
Mr. DULLES – Could you tell at all how the arm was held from that mark or that hole in the sleeve?
Dr. SHAW – Mr. Dulles, I thought I knew Just how the Governor was wounded until I saw the pictures today, and it becomes a little bit harder to explain.
I felt that the wound had been caused by the same bullet that came out through the chest with the Governor’s arm held in approximately this position.
Mr. SPECTER – Indicating the right hand held close to the body?
Dr. SHAW – Yes, and this is still a possibility. But I don’t feel that it is the only possibility.
Senator COOPER – Why do you say you don’t think it is the only possibility? What causes you now to say that it is the location—-
Dr. SHAW – This is again the testimony that I believe Dr. Gregory will be giving, too. It is a matter of whether the wrist wound could be caused by the same bullet, and we felt that it could but we had not seen the bullets until today, and we still do not know which bullet actually inflicted the wound on Governor Connally.
Mr. DULLES – Or whether it was one or two wounds?
Dr. SHAW – Yes.
Mr. DULLES – Or two bullets?
Dr. SHAW – Yes; or three.
Mr. DULLES – Why do you say three?
Mr. DULLES – Oh, yes; we haven’t. come to the wound of the thigh yet, have we?
Mr. McCLOY – You have no firm opinion that all these three wounds were caused by one bullet?
Dr. SHAW – I have no firm opinion.
Dr. SHAW – All right. As far as the wounds of the chest are concerned, I feel that this bullet could have inflicted those wounds. But the examination of the wrist both by X-ray and at the time of surgery showed some fragments of metal that make it difficult to believe that the same missile could have caused these two wounds. There seems to be more than three grains of metal missing as far as the I mean in the wrist.
Dr. SHAW – I feel that there would be some difficulty in explaining all of the wounds as being inflicted by bullet Exhibit 399 without causing more in the way of loss of substance to the bullet or deformation of the bullet.
(Discussion off the record.)
“I think it is hard to say that the first bullet hit both of these men almost simultaneously.
You might want to review this article by Christopher Ketcham in GQ, asserting among other things that cell phone radiation is known to be “genotoxic” and that American corporations are covering this up.
Hi Dr. Novella,
Are you familiar with the x-ray of Connally’s radius? It poses a problem for me when I look at it carefully. The angle of the break goes in the opposite direction of the path of the bullet. That is, if the bullet actually passed through the governor’s chest and his right radius and ended up penetrating his left thigh.
“Mr. SPECTER. Now looking at that bullet, Exhibit 399, Doctor Humes, could that bullet have gone through or been any part of the fragment passing through President Kennedy’s head in Exhibit No. 388?
Commander HUMES. I do not believe so, sir.
Mr. SPECTER. And could that missile have made the wound on Governor Connally’s right wrist?
Commander HUMES. I think that that is most unlikely … The reason I believe it most unlikely that this missile could have inflicted either of these wounds is that this missile is basically intact; its jacket appears to me to be intact, and I do not understand how it could possibly have left fragments in either of these locations.
Mr. SPECTER. Dr. Humes, under your opinion which you have just given us, what effect, if any, would that have on whether this bullet, 399, could have been the one to lodge in Governor Connally’s thigh?
Commander HUMES. I think that extremely unlikely. The reports, again Exhibit 392 from Parkland, tell of an entrance wound on the lower midthigh of the Governor, and X-rays taken there are described as showing metallic fragments in the bone, which apparently by this report were not removed and are still present in Governor Connally’s thigh. I can’t conceive of where they came from this missile.”
His reluctance to endorse Exhibit 399 does not jive with the Commission’s conclusions about support for their SBT position.
Hi, Dr. Novella. I would really appreciate your analysis and opinions about antidepressant drugs. I recently read Sharon Begley’s article in Newsweek and was very surprised to read that the evidence for their effectiveness in general seems to be pretty thin. I also found the “pro-drug” response by a psychiatrist to be unconvincing.
Your post here http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=24 says “A common belief is that the placebo effect is largely a ‘mind-over-matter effect,’ but this is a misconception. There is no compelling evidence that the mind can create healing simply through will or belief.”
Ben Goldacre says “the placebo effect shows the amazing power of the mind over the body”.
This is gaining media attention in Australia and the Pacific Islands. It would be interesting to hear your take. If this interests you let me know I can provide material, sources etc.
Many things are claimed including detox, faster healing etc.
Another claim is that because the “virgin coconut oil contains mainly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and some short-chain fatty acids, which has a different effect on the body than the typical long-chain fatty acids (in both form saturated and unsaturated), prevalent profusely in meat and vegetable oils.” (from the media release copied below.)
According to proponents the MFCAs mean cholesterol is not raised as with other saturated fats.
Proponents also use the “other oil manufacturers (such as olive oil) have waged an anti-coconut oil propaganda war on us” line.
16 FEBRUARY 2010 SUVA ( SPC) —– Pacific Islanders have used coconut for centuries as a vital source of food for health and general well being and everyday “The Tree of Life” in contributes in hundreds of different ways to
towards the sustenance of life.
Abandoning recent unhealthy lifestyles adopted by many urban Pacific Islanders and reverting to wholesome natural local foods such as coconut can help reduce the incidence of several devastating non-communicable
diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
To encourage communities to re-evaluate locally available resources which have major export market potential, the European Union funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project is organising a
media conference to raise awareness on the health benefits and potential of virgin coconut oil.
The FACT project is implemented by the Land Resource Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) with the goal of increasing agricultural and forestry trade within the region and exports from it by ensuring
a consistent and quality supply.
According to Dr Epeli Nailatikau of Strauss Herb Company Fiji Limited, virgin coconut oil contains mainly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and some short-chain fatty acids, which has a different effect on the body
than the typical long-chain fatty acids (in both form saturated and unsaturated), prevalent profusely in meat and vegetable oils.
“These same medium-chain fatty acids play a crucial role in cleansing the body from toxins.”
“Coconut oil is heralded as a natural health food, and a coconut oil detox simply speeds up healing results by thoroughly flushing the entire body of toxins in a short time,” said Dr Nailatikau. “Blood cholesterol levels remain
normal with the intake of virgin coconut oil and the body’s immune system is also boosted.”
Dr Nailatikau also added that the chemical composition of virgin coconut oil is very stable hence it can be kept for almost a year without losing its quality.
Apart from its eating qualities, the other medicinal benefits of VCO outweigh any disadvantage it may have. VCO can be identified by its colourless appearance and is processed with low or without any heat application
while normal coconut oil is golden in colour and produced with high heat application. For about 3960 years of the of the past 4000 years of the documented historical use of the fruits of the coconut palm as a food and a pharmaceutical, the news has all been good. It was seen as a sustainable resource providing materials that influenced every aspect of the lives of Pacific communities.
Studies have shown that virgin coconut oil has numerous health benefits. If you’re not using virgin coconut oil for your daily cooking and body care needs you’re missing out on one of nature’s most amazing health products….PNS (ENDS)
I’d appreciate it if you took a look at Dr. George B. Roth. He’s quietly building an empire based on first class pseudoscience, and charges his patients hundreds of dollars for unsubstantiated and unscientific treatments. He also runs frequent seminars for other CAM practitioners that see huge turnouts.
This might lie outside the parameters of your blog but it’d be informative nonetheless.
I’m an interior design student and often find it hard being a skeptic amongst the sustainability movement that currently categorizes architecture and design. For the most part it is solid, but when it comes to aesthetics things get a little wishy-washy for me.
Specifically, in a building systems course we were discussing HVAC systems. At one point we started talking about indoor air quality where my professor mentioned multiple chemical sensitivity which I immediately marked as bullshit and once I did a little research found out it was. I was happy to see that you even had an entry about it!
Because of the eagerness to mark MCS as a real illness I began to wonder about other “facts” design students are being told. So, I’m curious about the actual facts regarding the importance of Low or no VOC paints, the harm in offgassing (ie:carpet, textiles, certain finishes etc.) It’s my understanding that materials and paints offgas but is it “toxic” enough to cause actual physical harm? Are these concerns legitimate like the concerns once surrounding asbestos and lead paint?
If you’re not able to answer these particular questions maybe you could lead me to a source that could. I’ve found it difficult to find any information regarding my skepticism.
A mammal Brain is a dynamic structure reflecting every moment in a body life. Not events in the environment, but life of a body. Because of that modeling of a brain is not possible, nor required to understand how a body is determine it own behavior.
Attempt to understand how a brain functioning could bring a lot of benefits in medicine. Take a look on the Russian project “Transparent brain”, as example. However. that is fruitless in attempt to design a machines capable to behave reasonably.
When I remember an activity I’ve been engaged in, my memory isn’t of myself inhabiting my body looking out through my eyes, but rather it is of an external view of myself. As if I’m looking at a movie of myself.
I’ve asked around and the people I’ve spoken with have a similar experience.
Why is that? Is this universal? What is going on neurologically. What, if anything, does this have to say about out of body experiences?
There is so much wrong with the miracle fruit juice, MonaVie. It cures everything from cancer to athlete’s foot AND is a pyramid scheme. It’s almost too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel….although apparently that is kind of difficult according to Mythbusters!!! There is a so-called “study” that shows that the juice kills cancer cells.
Steve, I just saw this headline in the New York Times:
“Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets”. It talks about a new strategy by anti-evolutionist to try to teach the “controversy” of divisive subjects such as evolution, global warming, origins of life,etc. in public schools. Here is the link to the online article, if you haven’t seen it yet: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/science/earth/04climate.html?exprod=myyahoo
As a parent with children exhibiting sensory integration disorder and some ADD, I’m always looking for help since we’re on five waiting lists for assessment and appropriate therapy. I ran across an ad in our local once-a-week newspaper recently that touted something called “Crossinology BIT.” The website and ad are here: http://www.southwesttherapy.com/. Sounds great! No meds or invasive procedures, but will ERADICATE all kinds of problems! In as little as ten hours!
However, at this website (http://www.crossinology.com/), I found a smorgasbord of woo! Chi, acupressure, meridians, muscle testing, applied kinesiology, and more! “Research” articles from the website appear to be unpublished papers written by Ms (Dr?) McCrossin and reference tons of other woo-meisters.
As a neuroscientist, I thought you might be interested. This “technique” seems to be gaining steam in the US. The individual to whom I spoke by phone claims that Ms. McCrossin is training people in several states to perform these miracles whereas until recently, there was only one center, in Colorado. Unfortunately, my state (NM) is one of those that now has a center.
That individual also specifically told me what diagnostic codes to tell our pediatrician to use in order to help get insurance coverage for the “technique.” Is that even ethical?
At any rate, here’s some neuro-woo for you! Happy trails!
Was just about to post the same story. Choice quotes:
“…given the present state of the science, the proven benefits of vaccinating a child to protect them against serious diseases far outweigh the hypothesized risk that vaccinations might cause autism,” Autism Speaks said in a statement.
Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation: “There is not a bottomless pit of money with which to fund autism science. We have to use our scarce resources wisely.”
I’d sure like to learn how to navigate this blog. I can’t even find the letter I wrote to you about MS and my wife and the Zamboni and other approaches. Help! I want to get some comments, and I want to help some of you. I’m a very successful guy, but how the hell do I navigate this place. Is there anybody there that doesn’t do webspeak, not to mention checking in with those unreadable Avatar language words by someone who never learned how to write. Or is this site only for geeks and people with iq’s of 320, and not for an ordinary guy who runs a business with almost a hundred employees, not to mention two or three degrees. Oops, just lit and history, I slept through chem, doesn’t mean I don’t have common sense.
I’ll even go a step further. If someone has iron deposits in the brain tissue while the hell do they call it something like hemachromatosis, at least six goddamn syllables, and why do all the comments sound like Ph.D. theses. I took a master’s in journalism and wrote some bad TV scripts that were actually done on some good shows, but thank heaven for little girls, oops, I mean than god I don’t get that language. Will someone please begin to write in the English language. I’ll be glad to edit.
Oh, XYZ, CCSVI is not junk, it’s just good plumbing and electrical. I have remodeled many buildings and when the pressure in the pipe gets too high and doesn’t drain well, then you get oxidation and the pipe becomes occluded. I’ve got some sample pipe from an old building across from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where I had to replace damn near all the plumbing because a contractor cheated in the beginning. Just like god cheats some folks early on with not enough Vitamin D, or they wear too many religious garments, short their pregnant ladies on Vitamin D, and voila, MS. More prevalent in middle east in the poor ladies than on their menfolk. Zamboni was just a damn good plumber-electrician and not a neurological genius feeding immune systems with poisons. Did I mention the study that indicated that anti-bodies stimulated by Big Pharmas steroidals stick around over four years sometimes. Not to mention my wife got pneumonia right after a four hour infusion of Solu-Medrol, another miracle drug. Come on, take me on, I’m very angy about what conventional docs have done to my wife and others. Speak up, skeptics, you may be skeptical about the wrong thing. Come to one of my three motels in Morro Bay on a sunny day and get some Vitamin D, plus relaxing anti-depressants. Phone me for a special rate. I’m not always mad, only at some of my wife’s doctors and their FDA papers. Plus, John McCain now wants us to get a letter from Congress everytime we go to buy some Vitamin D, which might improve his Alzheimer’s and not remembering he gained thirty pounds in captivity. I hope he marries Sarah Palin, and they come up with a treatment for their retarded chldren. He’ll get support from Big Pharma.
Very truly yours,
I just read this, about a Canadian traveling to Poland to undergo a “controversial” therapy for Multiple Sclerosis. Of course, the fact that Canada’s health system doesn’t cover this treatment — and even the MS Society’s recommendation to avoid it — is being seen in conspiratorial terms (check the comments section.) Seems like your kind of issue, Dr. N.
I’m sorry, but we just had a horrible family incident. So I may not be coherent, and I am using this as an outlet. A family member who was big into alternative medicine, but was also dealing with serious mental illness, just committed suicide.
Just once in the last five years she seemed to be doing well, and that was after she left the county psyche ward after six weeks of real treatment. She got real medication, talk therapy and support. While she ended up in there because she had a breakdown and her mother called the police, she was the happiest and felt better after she left.
But then the support stop. Since she was unemployed, and was not a danger to anyone the system let her seek help voluntarily. So even though they do provide outpatient care, she actually had to want to go… so it was downhill from there.
Suggestions include (and they might be good for ScienceBasedMedicine) is:
1) Lack of mental health services, especially for those without insurance (she quit her job in a what could have been a manic state).
2) The issue of whether or not you can “force” a person to accept psychiatric services.
3) If it is possible or even fair to diagnose promoters of certain alternative medicine with mental illness. Like those who come back over and over again with the same “facts” even after they have been refuted. Especially with those that focus on a single issue.
4) Also because of lack of mental health services, are some alternative medicine claims seem attractive as a way to alleviate health problems that may be because of, or amplified due to the mental health issues (our relative recently became very sensitive to sound, while in the basement she could hear a tea cup being put into the microwave upstairs in the kitchen on the other side of the house).
Other ideas (and yes they are related to our relative):
A common theme from this evening was “At least she is no longer in pain.”
She suffered from chronic migraine headaches, starting from when she was 18 years old. She tried for over thirty years to get rid of the pain. And I have just been told the hypersensitive hearing was not uncommon among sufferers of migraine headaches.
So ideas of topics include: migraine headaches, sensory issues with them, and mental health issues with migraines.
First of all, congratulations for running and updating a fascinating blog.
What brings me to write today is the following: my girlfriend has recently started to carry out leaver flushes. She has been having digestive problems for years and believes that these flushes can do her some good. She hasn’t been to a doctor nor has she been diagnosed with gallstones.
The flushes do not seem to be dangerous, but they are certainly not a pleasant experience. Being a skeptic myself, and having never heard of such things, I started to investigate and found an article on Science Based Medicine (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=93) about these flushes. I am however disappointed since this article is not providing me with strong evidence. It does debunk a few improbable facts about flushes but does not provide me with an airtight clinical trial addressing this issue, and I find the style of writing sometimes condescending and certainly not really suited for a proper scientific discussion. Would you be aware of any reference/trial on this topic that confirms these flushes are a scam or is this still an open question ?
This topic isn’t skeptical, it is more science-y than magick-y (as Tim Minchin often says)…
Since it’s neurologica, and that deals with nerves… how about something like actual discussions regarding nerve cells.
My personal favourite is schwann cells or neurolemmocytes… I’d always wondered how the wrap around nerves or form near them in any case. And how they sped up propogation. Always thought that was an interesting topic…
After listening to a recent Quackcast episode, I was hit with an idea (I’m sure it’s not original):
I wonder if it would be easier to tease out placebo effects if studies — especially those that rely on subjective reporting — included groups who were intentionally given false information about the treatment they’re receiving.
So, in addition to double-blind control for treatment and placebo, there is a single-blinded group that is told which treatment is being given, and there is a single-blinded group that is lied to about the treatment.
So this breaks down into six sets:
1. Double-blinded group receiving treatment.
2. Double-blinded group receiving placebo.
3. Single-blinded group in which patient receives treatment and is told it is the treatment.
4. Single-blinded group in which patient receives placebo and is told it is the placebo.
5. Single-blinded group in which patient receives treatment and is told it is the placebo.
6. Single-blinded group in which patient receives placebo and is told it is the treatment.
If a result differs significantly based on the patient’s assumption about the treatment, could the data be used to blunt the placebo effect and give a better picture of the efficacy of the treatment?
To reduce the effect of bias in the single-blinded groups, the researcher who actually implements the treatment also could be blind to the type of treatment; in that case, he/she would only be passing on (either true or false) information given by those who set up the study.
This approach wouldn’t be feasible (or ethical) in all cases. And my characterization of the patient being “lied to” could be softened: Some studies could tell patients up front that the information they receive about the treatment may be false (though I wonder how this would affect the placebo reaction).
I think of studies like those that use “sham acupuncture.” I could envision patients being told they were getting the real thing reporting the same results as those receiving the real thing, and patients being told falsely that they were receiving the sham reporting the same results as those who were receiving the sham. This might more clearly show the ineffectiveness of the treatment.
(And, yes, I know there still would be special pleading.)
I am an SGU listener, Rogues Gallery reader, skeptic blogger, licensed psychologist, and autism specialist.
Parents have been inquiring about Dr. Robert Melillo’s Brain Balance program for children on the Autistic Spectrum. He is a chiropractic neurologist. Really??? there is such a thing??? Evidently this program costs $6000. My research brings up only pseudo science indicators. Is this something you are familiar with?
Mayim Baliak (Blossom), who contrary to Jenny McCarthy is somewhat educated after earning a Ph.D in Neuroscience, is nonetheless the spokesperson for The Holistic Moms Network (http://www.holisticmoms.org/), which, among other things, “believes that parents need to make informed and educated choices about all healthcare options for their children, including vaccination, and that they deserve the freedom to make the choice that works best for their family”. One of the experts on vaccinations is Lauren Feder, M.D., “who specializes in primary care medicine, pediatrics and homeopathy”…
The network has such sponsors as the National Center of Homeopathy.
Practitioners can be looked up through The Wellness Possibilities website (http://www.wellnesspossibilities.com/), but I’m just too scared to even open the page and look what cranks might advertise themselves on there…
Just read an internet story ” the Great Atlantic Garbage patch”, sounds fishy(HaHa). To me at best this is dramatic and lacks plausibility since UV light completley degrades plastics given my understanding.
I would like to see something on low-level laser therapy or cold laser therapy for pain. I understand that it’s considered experimental now, but I’d like to see your opinion of the evidence that exists.
I came across this anti-anti-depressant post by Mark Hyman on the HuffPost, which (thanks to you) I know is a hotbed for pseudo-science and demagoguery. I’m pretty sure you’ve talked about this guy Hyman before, and his diatribe against anti-depressants struck me as odd. After reading it and finding no explanations of why these drugs don’t work other than his argument that there are lots of “unpublished studies” that suggest otherwise, I am a little skeptical about his conclusions, which seem to do little more than support the alternative therapies he’s pushing.
As a user of anti-depressants, I know for a fact that they do have an actual effect (they are “drugs” for a reason, yes?). Whether or not they are the best treatment is a valid question, one that I have a personal stake in answering. But Hyman’s accusations that the studies are all pushed by pharmaceutical companies (a pseudo-science red flag you’ve warned us about) aren’t convincing, and they certainly don’t jive with what my doctor says. So, I was wondering what your take is on the use of anti-depressants. Patients being treated for depression need to be able to know who they should be listening to.
A couple of topics I’d like to see discussed on your blog, I’m sorry if they’ve been aforementioned.
1. Binaural beats. I’ve done my own research and found some of the actual studies I’ve read say positive things about the claims made. I’m curious what your opinion on the matter is. It seems to good to be true. And if it does prove to have legitimate benefits for human brain function, I’m afraid that this technology has the potential to be misused greatly. Sounds paranoid, I know.
2. Lucid dreaming as a way to treat anxiety symptoms such as nightmares. I’ve even seen claims of lucid dreaming helping sufferers of PTSD.
3. What are your thoughts on the existence of advance animal life in the universe. I read a book by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee entitled Rare Earth which delves deeper into the Drake equation and gives more rigid qualifications for sentient life using Earth and it’s life as an example.
I’m a practicing veterinarian in the UK. We have a weekly news journal for the profession here called the ‘Veterinary Times,’ whose letters page can often be filled with discussion about homeopathy and other nonsense- but one letter from a vet using homepathy over here stood out last week. I’ll quote a short part of it.
“I would like to commend to you a website (www.homeopathyeurope.org) to your readers. It features reports of the effects of ‘homeopathic dilutions’ and their electromagnetic properties.
The Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier, a French virologist who discovered HIV and won the Nobel Prize in 2008, and his team, report the results of a series of vigorous experiments investigating the electromagnetic properties of highly diluted biological samples. Before any of you criticise this work and disagree, do remember Prof Montagnier has won the Nobel Prize.”
The guy who wrote the letter also describes his success treating all kinds of cattle disease with nosodes.
I just wondered if you’d come across homeopaths using Luc Montagnier’s work as ‘evidence’ before?
Here’s a topic that needs more exposure. According to City Pages News (http://tinyurl.com/29f6jlo), a tenured college professor with questionable credentials is selling junk science on the side to earn a six digit supplemental income. It’s not just nonsense – he is causing real world harm.
Part of his side business involves being a paid expert witness, representing police officers accused of using excessive force. In nearly 100 cases, he always supports the use of force and always defends police when they are accused of overstepping their bounds. He charges $475 an hour for his work as an expert witness. By his own estimate, he bills upward of $100,000 a year in expert testimony fees alone. The article says that he is often called upon to present a scientific-sounding justification and then responds with junk science.
This article reminded me of the excellent Law and Disorder chapter in the book, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tarvis.
I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now – thank you for all the amazing work!
I stumbled upon an article in AlterNet today that I’d love your take on. It’s an interview with an author who claims that psychiatric drugs are only making us worse, not better, and is claiming itself to be the “Silent Spring” of the antidepressant world.
I’m inclined to think that the reason mental illness rates have gone up are due to the ability to better diagnose disorders, but I’d love to hear you take on an issue that’s near to my heart (and my brain).
The one where they are using optical techniques to stimulate specific populations of neurons. I haven’t gotten to the library to get the whole paper yet, but what I found very interesting in her write-up was the mention that stimulating the excitatory neurons caused an increase in the BOLD fMRI signal and stimulating the inhibitory neurons caused a decrease.
I mentioned this in a comment there, but I think what this is showing is that both excitatory and inhibitory neurons are coupling to what ever it is that regulates vasodilatation (which we know is NO).
This implies that the basal blood flow is regulated by the basal level of what ever it is that these different populations of neurons are changing to cause the acute vasodilatation and acute vasoconstriction. This also implies that disorders of reduced basal blood flow in the brain (i.e. all of the neurodegenerative disorders plus some more) are characterized by reduced basal levels of what ever it is that is regulating vasodilatation (which we know is NO) which shifts the operating point of the dilatation/constriction trade-off to less dilatation.
The reduced blood flow associated with neuroinflammation (i.e. via TNF-alpha) is then seen as a “normal” (normal as process, not necessarily normal as outcome) perturbation of the basal NO level (via superoxide). The prompt effects of Etanercept on Alzheimer’s can be rationalized via a prompt effect on local superoxide by blocking the action of TNF-alpha.
I wanted to give you a heads up on this paper and what I see are the implications of it for disorders characterized by reduced brain blood flow, and how those couple to disorders characterized by reduced functional connectivity.
I’m a long-time reader of your blog, and I thought you might be interested in the story I’m linking here for you. This seemed like the sort of thing you might be interested in getting out to a wider audience, both because of the ethical concerns and because it happened despite the oversight process that is supposed to prevent this sort of thing happening in a place of science-based medicine.
Here’s the story: Alice Dreger and Ellen Feder have called into question the research of Dix Poppas of Cornell University. He has been performing surgery to reduce the size of the clitorises of very young girls, because he decided that they were too big. The point of this seems to be so that he can demonstrate that he can hack out the clitoral tissue to shorten the clitoris without disturbing the nerve connections to the clitoral head. His follow-up, for that reason, consists of applying a vibrator to the clitoris of each girl and asking her to rate the intensity of sensation.
Dreger and Feder point out that this is appalling, and wonder how such a thing could have been approved by the Cornell review panel. Not only do the tissues removed play an important part in normal sexual response, but the follow-ups seem practically designed to traumatize the 5- or 6-year-old patients.
What I hope you will do is offer some commentary on what the heck might have happened at Cornell to allow what is essentially female genital mutilation to occur under the auspices of clinical medicine. I work on songbirds, and I expected that the ethical standards for human experimentation to be a bit more restrictive than those covering my subjects. Certainly, Poppas talked the parents into allowing it, but I don’t think he should have been allowed to.
I personally think the very ill should be free to pursue untested or experimental treatments, assuming they are reasonably aware of the risks. Having driven our citizens out of country by not giving them that option here, we really now have NO control over what kind of treatment they get. That’s just my read on it, of course.
It will be no time at all before the Creationist-minded get a hold of this legitimate study and start using it for all kinds of batty things. The article practically begs them to, with its references to insta-canyons and mega-floods.
I’m going to put the over-under for that at… let’s say three days.
Could you comment on Brain State Technology. It comes from a guy named Lee Gerdes. It involves some aspects of biofeedback with other ideas. I have several people I know doing it and it seems suspicious. I also can find no scientific articles on its validity, just testimonials on their website.
Sigh, I underestimated the creationists. They cited the rapid canyon formation as proof of biblical creationism way back in 2007 when it occurred. In retrospect, I guess there was no reason for them to wait for geologists to study the phenomenon. Why does science always take so much longer than religion?
Not a topic suggestion, but a category suggestion. It seems you’ve stopped using the “autism” category label since January. Can you add it to the relevant posts since then? Thanks, great work, much appreciated.
I think a lot of folks would appreciate your thoughts on CTE in the wake of the findings on Chris Henry, a 26 year old active NFL player who died in a car accident.
He had a string of what we call bad behavior but his autopsy showed he was suffering from an advanced case of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).
As a lot of new evidence is coming to light about long term affects of concussions and sub-concussive hits, those of us who played football, ice hockey, wrestled or soccer in high school, college or even just weekend warrior style are concerned.
Should we allow our kids to play these rough contact sports? When does CTE start? How soon is it to stop? Pop Warner, Junior High, High school?
How many cases of irrational or violent behavior can be attributed to undisclosed cases of CTE?
Is it just professional athletes at risk or anyone whose played contact sports for a long time?
There are semi pro football leagues, fireman vs. policeman leagues, full contact flag football leagues, adult ice hockey leagues, etc…etc…
Can many cases of Alzheimer’s really be CTE misdiagnosed?
And since there is no way of diagnosing it while alive, is there anything that can be done about it?
Please consider the subject. A lot of concerned former players and parents to future players would really like your insight on this very important subject.
Anyone I’ve talked to about the issue seems to think that MS has been cured all of a sudden. My question is this: Is Dr. Zamboni wasting precious research time and money by hyping a pet theory, or is this a legitimate area of research that deserves the attention and funding it’s getting?
What causes the episodic, variable, and often excruitiating pain of severe chronic prostatitis, an illness that accounts for an estimated 2 million doctor visits a year in the US?
On the one hand, there is a school of thought that suggests that the problem is neuromuscular. Supporting this thought is the observation that pelvic trigger point release can in some cases bring relief. The data are skimpy and the reported relief is short lived. I know of no data beyond a few weeks.
On the other hand are recent observations, as partly described on the Prostatitis Surgery site, that support a primary prostatic origin. This is because excisional surgery in some cases completely, immediately, and durably eliminates the pain. The videos illustrate just how severe chronic prostatitis can be. And just how badly doctors can treat their patients. Including doctor patients.
I’d like to see an article on coherence between the two brain hemispheres. A devotee of transcendental meditation claims “In normal waking activity for the average person there is dissonance between all parts of the brain meaning there is “incoherence”. For criminals and drug addicts the incoherence has risen to such a degree that they can’t think clearly and make mistakes.” He also says that “What I witnessed in my EEG signal during practice of TM was astonishing. The incoherence suddenly faded and the different lobes of the brain became coherent – as if the various parts of the brain were talking to each other.” It seems obvious that we don’t know whether brain waves are in sync or not while a person is writing a book or robbing a bank unless we have him hooked up to a device that can measure brain activity. Is there compelling evidence that coherence or lack of it in brain waves correlates to ability to think critically, mental disorders such as schizophrenia, or criminal (anti-social) behavior? Is there evidence that any particular set of brain waves achieved during meditation correlates with any positive set of mental or physical skills post meditation?
I just read an article on Huffington Post by Mark Hyman, MD. about “yeast overgrowth.” Apparently, yeast is responsible for my chronic fatigue syndrome and my digestive issues.
In his post, Dr. Hyman uses several references to seemingly back up his claims, and not all of the references are from alternative medicine journals. For instance, he cites a study from the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility which supported the hypothesis that “intestinal microbiota may play an important role in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.” I don’t have the scientific background to figure out if this has anything to do with yeast, but the study appears to come from a legitimate journal.
I checked your archives and I didn’t see anything on yeast overgrowth. Have you heard of this before? I think it’s scandalous that this yeast problem has overlooked by conventional medicine. I’d like to know your opinion on whether I should start taking two to three activated charcoal capsules every four to six hours (I ate a big loaf of bread earlier today).
Like others, I was initially impressed by the (apparently flawed) systematic review on this topic that was published in the Lancet.
2nd, after finding this site, I did word searches on some topics that are of interest to me: trigger points, Feldenkrais, and physical therapy. I have some objections as well as questions about what little I found, but unfortunately the comments are closed. For that reason I hope you’ll post on these topics again.
Lately I’ve seen a great deal of commentary over a list published by the Environmental Working Group concerning skincare products and sunscreen. They are infamous for having raised the alarm about pesticides in produce and for making the false claim that organic produce is nutritionally advantageous without a substantive platform of evidence and review.
I’ve seen some responses to this listing by mothers and other consumers worried about what products are safe for use with their infants/children due to various ingredients that have shown carcinogenic properties (oxybenzophenone, retinyl palmitate) in animal trials (though not in any in vivo study). Additionally there is some concern over persistence of nanoscale material entering the bloodstream transdermally (like zinc oxide) and other materials having teratogenic consequences. I’ve even seen comments where people have totally overhauled their entire product selection of skincare and other dermatological products in favor of super expensive or “natural” products in an attempt to purge their lives of chemicals that have shown no conclusive danger to their health.
I’ve scoured the references listing provided by EWG and read over the methods they’ve used to discern X from Y product, but I feel like I just don’t have the experience/expertise to tell what is or isn’t good about the science that supposedly supports these assertions (that sunscreens and their ingredients are somehow carcinogenic or worthy of concern).
I think this highlights a important dilemma: that somehow people feel they cannot rely on the FDA to tell them the truth or to have taken the precautions required to keep them safe regarding personal care products. As a result, in swoops an NGO with a consumer first message that may or may not be scientifically or statistically rigorous enough to be free-standing.
Although my gut feeling is that it is largely post hoc reasoning, false analogy, appeals to mistrust or failures by the FDA, or some other naturopathic gimmick against “the establishment”, I think it would help dispel myths that are everyday and important to our hyper-hygienic society if a little truth-testing were sent down upon this topic from an experienced and qualified observer in healthcare/research.
I’m posting a link to these studies below and thank you for you time. I enjoy reading your blog terribly.
It could be interesting to discuss some of the arguments for children born without (much of) a cerebral cortex being conscious. There are almost annual reports of parents who claim that their particular anencephalic or hydranencephalic child is, in fact conscious, and there have been a few articles in the literature recently where the authors have made similar claims. I think it’s BS, and that it stems from a all-or-nothing view of consciousness, whereby a child that smiles MUST have the same emotional capacity and hence THE SAME conscious states as other humans.
Hi, my name is Eric Hannum. I’m a big fan of the Skeptic’s Guide podcast and the co-founder of the Atheist’s and Skeptic’s Club at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Anyway, I was on facebook and saw my friend who is studying to become a nurse post the following:
Interesting…. [Ibogaine] will never be legal in the U.S because Pharmaceutical companies cannot profit from it. But imagine, curing long term opiate addictions in less than 24 hours.”
The “big pharma suppressing miracle cure” part of it is what got my attention and made me immediately skeptical, but addiction medicine is something I’m really interested in so I decided to see for myself if there’s any science behind ibogaine. I tried going to PubMed but I couldn’t find much and what I did find was either too vague or too technical for me to understand. Everything I could find on it was just way above my head other than the facts that it made some mice cut back on cocaine (by how much and for how long, I don’t know), Dr. Drew says it doesn’t work, and someone died from using it on an episode of CSI.
I was wondering if you could offer any insight into this as a neurologist. What does the science say about ibogaine? Does it work? If so, is it safe? If so why isn’t it used? Or is this just another miracle cure from the internet?
PS. Have you written any books? You do a lot of writing for free on your blog but I would totally pay money to read a whole book by you.
He’s essentially talking about completely rewriting some basic axioms of biology and genetics. He makes claims like “Our beliefs change our genetics” and he appears to be teaming up with people like Wayne Dyer and other new agey-type folks due to these “revelations.”
Some searching has shown that he has published scientific papers on his topics, I think.
BTW, these videos were brought to my attention by my girlfriend who said that they played this in her biology class at SF State. I believe he’s made these presentations at least at San Francisco State University and Stanford.
It claims to allow users to:
“Use your thoughts, feeling, and emotion to dynamically create color, music, and art.”
“Life changing applications for disabled patients, such as controlling an electric wheelchair, mind-keyboard, or playing a hands-free games”
“get true insight about how people respond and feel about material presented to them. Get real-time feedback on user enjoyment and engagement. ”
“14 saline sensors offer optimal positioning for accurate spatial resolution”
It charges $299 per set.
Is it bogus or genuine?
would be interested in your answer either here or on the SGU
He peddles the usual tropes: cholesterol is actually good for you because all cells need it, it is a poor indicator of heart health, inflammation is a much better indicator, he claims that doctors don’t understand the importance of inflammation with regards to heart health, cholesterol drugs have terrible side effects, and finally he gives advice on how to lower cholesterol naturally, in direct contrast to the fact that he spent several paragraphs explaining cholesterol is natural, important and does not need to be lowered.
Apparently ALS can be mimicked by traumatic brain injury. Presumably that means shared final common pathways. I suspect neuroinflammation leading to low NO and insufficient mitochondrial biogenesis leading to low ATP, chronic ischemic preconditioning and eventual neurodegeneration.
I want to point you to a little known problem. Forty years ago designers hired to modernize the business discovered that subliminal sight operating under “special circumstances” could cause mental breaks.
The cubicle was designed to deal with it by 1968.
There is no research about this phenomenon. No one in mental health services is aware it exists.
I have a friend who has been suffering (for years now) from a condition that causes chronic inflammation in his lower GI tract (it’s unclear if it’s Crohn’s, colitis, IBS…) . The real doctor’s he’s seen have only been able to alleviate the symptoms, and only then temporarily. To make matters worse, the treatments have scary side effects like increased risk of tumors.
As you know, this sort of situation makes a person ripe for being lured by woo. Since college, he has steadily descended deep into the woo machine (even taking out huge loans to enroll at a CAM school). It’s difficult to talk about how baseless I think ALL the CAM stuff is, especially when my friend is now SO invested in it.
His latest venture is with the GAPS diet. I trawled through their site and, although the doctor who invented it (she is actually a real doctor, sad as that is) knows how to throw around medical terminology, there’s nothing there but the standard woo nonsense: toxic load, autism/ADHD and diet, chemicals from modern society, etc.
So, I have two questions/topic suggestions:
1) I’d love to see you do a take-down of the GAPS diet
2) Do you have any strategies for deprogramming a friend who has been “woo washed”?
I was wondering if you could give an overview of the research surrounding Melatonin supplement and its efficacy in assisting with sleep and jet-lag. I’m under the impression that the evidence is still largely inconclusive. A very prominent neuropharmacologist at my school (Dr. Eric J. Nestler) believes that all talk of Melatonin supplements actually working to assist with sleep is basically utter crap, but I know there have been quite a few clinical studies showing some small benefit.
Hi i recently found this book called “The Yeast Connection” among my mother’s things. It set off my skeptic sense by its one cure for all attitude. Saying that yeast is causing all these people to be sick.
It even makes you take a quiz in the beginning of it.
However i’m not a doctor and could be completely wrong, i’d love to hear your opinion of it.
Do you know anything about the so called electroneuromedulary therapy for management of pain? This guy even says he has been nominated for Nobel prize in medicine….
Dr. Font’s approach bears similarities to neural therapy, and might even be considered a variation of neural therapy. However procaine is not a primary part of treatment, nor are interference fields searched for in the usual ways. Where it resembles neural therapy is its effect of altering abnormal autonomic nervous system tone, particularly in the region of the spine.
Electroneuromedular medicine targets the spine, more specifically the dura mater. In cases of chronic pain or spinal cord injury, a long acupuncture needle is inserted into the spine until the tip touches the dura mater. The patient feels a sharp pain, often in an extremity, and the operator feels a powerful shock in his or her fingers through the needle from the dura itself. Dr. Font explained that dura mater carries a voltage of approximately 115 volts at a 60 Herz frequency, i.e. much like that in North American house wiring.
How about a review of ADHD?
We now have two sons who are in their 20s and have been on medication since they were seven.
We took the best medical advice at the time, but have been going through 9 levels of hell for the past 15 years with failed schooling, failed apprenticeships, criminal behaviour, suicide attempts and a total inability to integrate into adult society.
I would love to know what the current thinking is as the parents of gen r struggle with their adult offspring.
Cheers from Australia
I live in Japan and am recently hearing a lot about enzyme supplements. A quick look at some sites on the web immediately sent up red flags. Although I found some skeptical pages critical of enzyme supplements for healthy people, I haven’t found a good overview of the topic. I would like to hear your views on the subject.
This PLoS 1 study just came out on OG vs. Commercial Strawberries. It’s an interesting study and appears to me [a non-scientist] to be well done. I’d love to read an analysis from a scientist. The interest to your readership would be the relationship of these findings to the Organic Fallacy.
Could you please blog about or talk about in your podcast (SGU) about the heritability of intelligence and its scientific merit?
Just recently Thilo Sarrazin, a German economist published a book called “Germany does away with itself” (which is, by the way, largely popular). The book is controversial because it touches on the topic of eugenics, immigration and the heredity of certain traits (such as intelligence).
Here is an exert from the economist:
“…because people at the bottom of the social pyramid are less intelligent and have more children than those at the top, and because intelligence is largely inherited, “the inherited intellectual potential of the population is being progressively diluted.” http://economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2010/09/immigration_row_germany
Thanks, looking forward to your unadulterated thoughts.
Is there any evidence to support a gluten-free diet/lifestyle for the general population in the absence of celiac or gluten-sensitivity symptoms? My son came home from school and announced that he wasn’t going to eat bread for a week at the suggestion of his P.E. teacher. I emailed the teacher to inquire about the rationale behind this idea, since while reaching for a cereal bar, my son obviously had little understanding about why he was participating in this no-bread experiment.
The response I received supported my hunch that he was promoting a gluten-free diet. It seems to me that most of the evidence he presented were studies of gluten-free diets on those with diagnosed autoimmune disorders such as celiac sprue and rheumatoid arthritis, not studies of why a gluten free diet is healthier for the average person without these afflictions.
Any insight is appreciated and I’m happy to forward the 34 page powerpoint presentation he sent me if you’re interested.
though a little past the time of your debate with homeopaths at the University of Connecticut Health Center: A Debate: Homeopathy – Quackery Or A Key To The Future of Medicine? (2007), i’m wondering why in your response to the actual debate on your blog you respond in the comments section to a post:
“The bottom line is that homeopathy is a tangle of magical thinking, every element of which lacks a theoretical or empirical basis.”
i’m unsure how you can make this statement when Dr. Rustom Roy disproved one of your main arguments, that homeopathic medicines are merely placebos, showed evidence that the structure and thus function of water can be changed for extended periods of time. this evidence presented refutes that the remedies are merely water, the inert substance that we all think it is. your quote above entirely ignores and contradicts the evidence that was shown to you.
Following on from your Sept 3rd post, I was interested to see the news stories in the British press today claiming that a £0.10 daily cocktail of B vitamins may significantly reduce brain shrinkage in Alzheimer’s patients; for example this one: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11232356. I note that it’s a relatively small study – 168 patients.
In looking at stories on Digg using the keywords “Alzheimer’s Vitamin B”, there seems to be a less clear picture; some of the stories there suggest the opposite; that B vitamins do *not* slow the condition. In fact, while they did demonstrate a reduction in the chemical homocysteine, they did not detect any change in cognitive outcomes. An example would be this story: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/125432.php (which was based on a study of over 400 people).
Now, that last link is from 2008, and the positive story is Sept 2010. I wondered whether you might consider picking through the facts for us? I assume that cognitive outcomes are the important thing here – that there is a clear improvement whether in symptoms or in slowing the onset or progression of the disease?
It would be too wonderful to hope that we’ve had a major breakthrough in the battle against this terrible illness, but I would really appreciate your insight.
I was wondering if you’d ever heard of Dr. Bonnie Burstow? She was a professor of mine at the University of Toronto and she has some wacky ideas about trauma and the relationship between men and women. She also is an increasingly prominent spokeswoman for the anti-psychiatry movement in Canada and the U.S.. For example, she believes that any psychiatric label (i.e. Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Schizophrenia, etc.) given to a patient is a form of abuse and torture. For the past few years she has been spearheading a movement to get electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) banned. In her view it is a form of torture used by a facist society to victimize vulnerable people, especially those who have been traumatized by the male hegemony (which is inherently abusive and victimizes women). I’m not necessarily writing to you about your views about violence against women and feminism, but I’m interested in your views about mental illness denial and more specifically about ECT. Being a neurologist, I’m sure that you have interesting views on these subjects. You can hear a short interview with Dr. Burstow on the CBC show “The Current”:
Steve–I know you avoid politics, but you have never really posted your opinion much on the tough debate between religious freedom and safety; can you weigh in on the (possibly stupid) debate about whether people were legitimately criticizing Jones, and why he should have backed out, or not?
A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she is starting brain reprogramming, or brainwave optimization, today to treat her migraines and chronic depression. When I looked at the websites I could not find a clear description of what the procedure involves beyond monitoring the brain frequencies and sending other frequencies back into your brain. Additionally, a simple google search did not reveal any real scientific evidence for or against this treatment despite it being one of the topics of conversation on Oprah this week. I am very skeptical about any medical treatment that is preformed by a technician who bought an online kit and does not have medical training. I would greatly appreciate your feedback/opinion on brainwave optimization.
I was wondering if you’ve ever written anything on “Wind Turbine Syndrome”. Sounds like medical/scientific bunk to me and has all the hallmarks of a pseudoscientific movement (i.e. big industry pulling the wool over people’s eyes for profit, unspecified health effects of wind turbine noise, unscientific research, etc..). Check out this website where Dr. Nina Pierpont is promoting her new book: http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/
This is a real issue in Ontario, where there is a big fight to prevent the building of wind turbines in rural areas for electricity generation. The issue is coming to a head in my small, rural community, where a bunch of people are protesting the development of a number of wind farms.
I would really appreciate your point of view on this topic.
I have a cousin who was raving about a book. “The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman”. It seems fishy to me, but I was wondering if you wanted to take a look at it.
I’ve been reading your blog and SBM for close to a year now, and I really appreciate what you do. As a 2nd year medical student, I’ve had friends and family ask me about certain medical/scientific concerns, and while now I’m getting much better and finding, dissecting, and interpreting information from PubMed, NeuroLogica and SBM have been an incredible resource!
Over the holidays, my sister-in-law asked me about “The Dirty Dozen” and the pesticides used in conventional farming practices. Supposedly these are the 12 produce items that should be purchased organic so as to limit pesticide residue exposure by 80% or some such, at least according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). I’ve had trouble locating the original study the EWG is referring to, and I can’t find much information about the EWG that isn’t directly from a pro-organic website.
I know that talking about reducing your exposure by 80% means very little if you go from .1% of toxic exposure to .02% of toxic exposure, but I don’t know what the absolute exposure levels are nor what is an acceptable exposure. I advised her that “organic pesticides” are still used in organic produce, and if she’s worried about pesticides to just wash all produce before preparing it, but I would love to have some actual evidence-based information for reference. And should there be any legitimacy to this claim, that would be useful to know as well.
Thanks for everything you do and keep up the great work!
Thank you for publicizing the recent episode of Marketplace that turned a skeptical eye on Homeopathy. As a Canadian, I was proud to see homegrown skepticism go mainstream.
The CBC website garnered a lot of comments, many of them angry accusations of obvious bias – not too surprising since it’s hard to argue with the science.
However, one sciency-sounding argument cropped up again and again: homeopathy works in animals, therefore in CANNOT be attributed to the placebo effect, therefore homeopathy works.
Is it true that an effect is seen in animals, and if so, how does this square with what we know about homeopathy in humans? If I had to guess, I’d say that any results seen in animals are thanks to either improper blinding (ie. the people judging the animals’ health know which ones have been given a homeopathic preparation) or improper controls (ie. no one even bothered to have a control group).
I’d like to have a counter-argument ready the next time I hear this claim, so any help you can offer would be appreciated.
Agreeing with “skepdic”, in more detail: I’m wondering whether you’ve read Robert Whitaker’s book “Anatomy of an Epidemic” (2010, Crown Publishing Group) and if so what you think of it. He’s not a mental illness denier, but argues that long-term use of psychotropic drugs may have actually increased the amount of disability from mental illness.
NaturalNews is publishing a pamphlet that is simply drenched in antivax poison. It’s being promoted as written by the “International Medical Council on Vaccination” and is basically just the most concentrated source of misinformation on vaccination that I have ever come across.
He basically says that exposure to UV rays increases vitamin D production, which has lots of benefits. He also says you can’t get sufficient vitamin D from food, and he is reluctant to recommend vitamin supplements in pill form.
Any veracity to these claims? I’m under the impression that the increased risk of skin cancer outweights the benefits.
I have come across an interview with the author (unfortunately in my native Slovak language) where he states various and outrageous things- like all vaccines, even those against hepatitis or polio are useless; or that an aspirin can kill you etc. I am worried, because in my neck of the woods this man is treated like an insider hero, who knows what is going on in the world of big pharma etc.
I have searched several skeptical blogs and websites to find out something more, but came up with nothing. The anti-vaccines movement in Slovakia is young but gaining momentum- ironically even after Andrew Wakefield has been discredited and this book adds another spin to the whole issue.
I would love to see an article on amber teething necklaces. http://www.amberbebe.com/
These charming trachea sized beads are said to ease teething pain. WOW what sort of lowlife promotes fake pain relief for children ? These amber choking necklaces are very popular here in hippieland, as yet I am unaware of any deaths resulting from them but it seems inevitable.
Oh well at least they are not full of toxins……OOOOOHHHH the toxins
“Physicians and par- ents should consider whether to administer the vaccine. While the subgroup results were often not statistically sig- nificant, except for the polio vaccine, it would be justifiable to abstain from immunization in this subgroup at present.”
Also, Maybe on here or SBM you or one of the other authors could cover the Delta 32 mutation that apparently makes people immune to HIV and I beleive there were some other claims of immunity to other things as well. I recently saw in the news that a man has apparently been cured of HIV after a stem-cell transplant (whatever that means, just a few? all of them transplanted?) from a doner that had the Delta 32 mutation. If the hype is to be believed, then it seems like a promising avenue to head down, I could just use some help seperating fact from exageration.
I’m not buying their hypothesis about chemicals being the cause of lowering sperm counts. We are undeniably safer about the way we approach exposure today than we were in the 80s, and likewise we were safer in the 80s than we were in the 50s. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
I suspect nutrition in utero is probably more important. What makes more sense is the fact that, at least in the USA, we started our unhealthy relationship with food (leading to increasing obesity) in about the mid-70s. As over-eating and weight issues took off, sperm counts lowered. Perhaps the same aspect of obesity that causes girls to start puberty earlier also negatively affects sperm counts in men? That’s my hypothesis. Now, this study was done in Finland, so it is important to note that Finalnd’s rate of obesity is not the same as the USA’s. I think they actually peaked in obesity rates in the 80s and then had their rates come back down, so my hypothesis is totally testable by seeing if sperm counts increase in children born in the 90s or if they can account for BMI of mothers during pregnancy.
Anyway, I was hoping you could weigh in on this because “chemicals” just doesn’t sit right with me. It sounds too much like “toxins,” which elicits a knee-jerk negative reaction from me.
Personally I’m a big fan of the articles where you sort of go back to the basics. You have an inspiring way of writing, which I really enjoy to read. I have showed some of your texts to other people interested in public debates (such as the debate on evolution and climate) and they are very impressed as well.
I was wondering if you could do a piece on how to refute an argument or assertion. I have heard that the only way to refute an argument is by showing that one or more of the premises are wrong, or by showing that the conclusion does not logically follow the premises.
Then compare this fact with how creationists and so called “climate sceptics” tries to refute arguments.
In my opinion they fail at doing so, because they neither attack the premises nor show that the conclusion does not follow the premises.
I know I should ignore YECists, but there’s a guy on a forum where I hang out making a lot of noise about the Hubble Constant. His conspiracy theories tend to gravitate towards the idea that evolution is a sham and that scientists are on a bandwagon in order to gain grant money (or something like that). Along these lines, this YECist is claiming that the Hubble Constant has been changed many times to accommodate the size of the universe. You see, scientists are vested in keeping the universe large to make it appear old in order to keep the theory of evolution alive. I’ve done a lot of reading about the Hubble Constant (good site here: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~dfabricant/huchra/hubble/) and I’m finding it to be a fascinating subject.
According to Wikipedia: The law is often expressed by the equation v = H0D, with H0 the constant of proportionality (the Hubble constant) between the “proper distance” D to a galaxy (which can change over time, unlike the comoving distance) and its velocity v (i.e. the derivative of proper distance with respect to cosmological time coordinate . . .
I was hoping you could put your word wizardry skills to good use and explain the Hubble Constant to a layperson such as myself. What is the significance of the Hubble Constant and why is it so difficult to get a handle on the value H0?
I stumbled upon this and it seemed interesting and potentially worth getting into a bit more detail about.
If zero G can trigger an acceleration in some infections, maybe exposing patients to a higher G force (like in those giant centrifuges) may be beneficial? Or maybe even a variable G force may do something to screw up the molecular triggers….
It’s fun to speculate as a layman, not sure if it tickles your higher expertise.
I don’t know if you have done a talk on anti-expert ideas but I thought it might be an interesting topic. I did a quick search and didn’t see any articles specifically on this subject.
I just watched a TED talk by Noreena Hertz who boldly states that we need to challenge and rebel against experts. She has a bit of a point that in some cases we should ask questions of experts to make sure they aren’t making a mistake but the talk appears to go much too far and implies that non-experts should have more of a say in fields that generally require expertise.
The TED talk just made me think that we skeptics need to battle back against anti-expert ideas and try to raise awareness on why its important to trust experts rather than trying to comabt them with our own limited knowledge and also how to know when it is reasonable to question experts.
My wife and I are discussing starting a family, and she has been researching midwives vs. hospital births. Could you shed some light on the safety of both, the effects of drugs and any other aspects of birth that we might find helpful in understanding this topic? Thanks!
“Laughter has shown physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and quality-of-life benefits. Adverse effects are very limited, and laughter is practically lacking in contraindications. Therapeutic efficacy of laughter is mainly derived from spontaneous laughter (triggered by external stimuli or positive emotions) and self-induced laughter (triggered by oneself at will), both occurring with or without humor. The brain is not able to distinguish between these types; therefore, it is assumed that similar benefits may be achieved with one or the other. Although there is not enough data to demonstrate that laughter is an all-around healing agent, this review concludes that there exists sufficient evidence to suggest that laughter has some positive, quantifiable effects on certain aspects of health. In this era of evidence-based medicine, it would be appropriate for laughter to be used as a complementary/alternative medicine in the prevention and treatment of illnesses, although further well-designed research is warranted.”
My son’s speech was delayed and looking for info on the topic I came across this group which pushes supplements as the answer to delays defined as Apraxia.
The discussion group is worthwhile entertainment.
President CHERAB Foundation
Communication Help, Education, Research, Apraxia Base http://www.cherab.org
Food dyes are in the news now, here’s an msnbc news item about the ‘link’ between dyes and hyperactivity: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42338423/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/
Is there anything to these claims? Your thoughts? It seems to me that a diet rich in these dyes is also probably rich in crap we shouldn’t be eating a lot of anyway (salt, fat, and sugar.) Could cutting back on these foods themselves, regardless of dye use, cause ADD-like symptoms to lessen after switching to a more healthy diet?
Thanks for all you do!
It would be great to discuss in a more comprehensive way some topics like: how we can improve our mental capacity, learnig skills, memory (all kinds), and if there is any “natural” and also “medically proven” way of adding some supplements (or so) to our diet to energize brain.
Also it would be nice to comment about the claims of Amen Clinics (I mean by D.Amen in his books, blog etc.) about the correlation between using natural supplemnts (certain)(and also other lifestyle changes-but supplements are emphasized) and making the brain “better” which is seen via SPECT scans.
I would love to hear your comments, either in blog form or a discussion on SGU, about Sam Harris’s perspectives on science and morals. You’ve often said that there is a reasonable divide between science and decision making and it’s because you need a value judgement. Science can only inform those judgments with information. I think Harris would disagree with that assessment, and instead say science can definitely tell you some values are better than others, under simple assumptions, and to me he does so pretty convincingly.
Hello and thanks for running a great blog and podcast!
While specific misconceptions can be very interesting, I have become especially interested in how thinking in general goes wrong. The biggest problem, as I see it, is our tendency to subconsciously twist facts and logic to fit whatever we want to be true. People often mention this problem, but I have never read a discussion about how we can avoid it in our own thought processes. How do we fight a problem when we don’t even recognize it in action? For example, I have had good, insightful conversations about cognitive biases with people who believe strange things; they can often see these issues in other people, just not in themselves.
While this topic is important for skeptics, I think it is even more important for the world at large. After all, if otherwise intelligent people can be led by their personal desires to fall for something like homeopathy, what chance does logic have with complex and subtle political issues like healthcare reform?
I recall awhile back an article, that I THINK was written by you, defending the field of psychology against claims of it being… less then adequate. If I’m mistaken, I apologize right off.
But if I remember correctly, I was wondering if you could direct me to some materials or people in that field with some good research. I have a side interest in people’s behavior, and am working my way through “The Lucifer effect” by Philip Zimbardo. He seems a bit more on the up and up(although I’m not done it yet), but as for other subjects, like schizophrenia, I’m not sure where to look. The best I found was a “how to cope with a family member with…” style books, not really anything comprehensive on the subject. I bought a book recently on sociopaths and was disappointed that it was just kind of an allegorical fear tale about how they’re everywhere and plotting against us, not really anything about what mechanisms are involved, genetic or through raising, and so forth.
But at any rate, anything I find on the shelf at my local chapters/indigo (like barnes and nobles in the states) seems like a lot more opinion then fact (especially one that was saying fundamentalism in religion was a healthy mental construct, but for all I know). So long ramble short, any suggestions?
essentially I need a good starting point, otherwise I’ll have difficulty in evaluating the information if it contradicts my viewpoint. which for some issues, I know i’ll ignore, if I’m not 100% sure the person is on the up and up.
Likewise I have an inkling that a lot of the skeptical community may be.. giving less then adequate attention that people are irrational by nature and perhaps should work within those confines.. But I won’t know until I read more~ Although I do know, the whole “don’t be a dick” conversation factors into these concerns.
Are there any blogs of note written by people higher up in the psychology field? I know some of these issues relate to your field as well, and any thoughts too on where neuroscience and psychology interweave would be helpful.
I am a long time listener and lover of your show, it’s always the first podcast I listen to each week. As an English major I’m very interested in the ways that literature and art might interact with science. Your show has highlighted a number of artists who help to disseminate scientific ideas to the general public but I don’t recall any interviews looking at how art itself could aid more directly in the progress of science. One recent book that I’ve encountered, Angus Fletcher’s “Evolving Hamlet” (2011) takes up this subject by extending William James argument that Pragmatism could provide an ethical dimension to evolution. I would love to see a treatment of this topic either on your show or on your blog.
Thank you again for a marvelous show and for your being a leader in the fight against pseudoscience everywhere,
I had a fried post a link to this on facebook and thought you might want to address it in a blog post or on the podcast. Supposedly sunscreen is causing cancer not preventing it, yes great work from good ‘ol Dr Mercola:
I am a biology major at Florida International University who loves your blog. I read this article today, Rewrite the Textbooks: Findings challenge conventional wisdom of how neurons operate
Neurons are complicated, but the basic functional concept is that synapses transmit electrical signals to the dendrites and cell body (input), and axons carry signals away (output). In one of many surprise findings, Northwestern University scientists have discovered that axons can operate in reverse: they can send signals to the cell body, too.
I would love it if you could critique this article, which I think is the most exciting paper I’ve ever read in neuroscience.
The authors are described as an “independent researcher” and “independent computer scientist” Right away that rings warning bells….
Anyway in my amateur opinion the paper is phony as correlation does not imply causation.
But I would appreciate some help from you or the other commenter looking at the statistical part and underlying data, as my stats skills are not the best. In other words does this correlation even exist
Dr. Novella, it’s ironic that you claim to be of “science-based” medicine when you in fact sherk the principles of science, and by your own admittance, by tryting to create your own new scientific paradigm: “plausibility.”
“To make matters worse, Dr. Steven Novella, the self proclaimed defender of science based medicine, (and what is that exactly?) sat on a panel discussion to defend his miopic stance on the science and plausibility medicine…I think Dr. Novella’s expertise is best used in lab, removed from humans and the conditions they suffer from.”
“Study Suggests Autism Rate May Be Underestimated”
May 9, 2011
An exhaustive study of autism in one community has found that the disorder is far more common than suggested by earlier research.
The study of 55,000 children in Goyang, South Korea, found that 2.64 percent — one in every 38 children — had an autism spectrum disorder.
“That is two-and-a-half times what the estimated prevalence is in the United States,” says Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University and one of the study’s authors.The South Korean study probably produced such a high figure because it screened a lot of kids who seemed to be doing OK and included in-person evaluations of any child suspected of having autism, Grinker says.
“Two-thirds of the children with autism that we ended up identifying were in mainstream schools, unrecognized, untreated,” he says.
Interesting stuff, with links to studies showing benefits from mediation, would be nice to dig deeper into these. Would also be interesting to have Sam on SGU talking about the issues raised about his new book on morality and of course about meditation, how it differs from normal relaxation, and how we can get the most out of it without deluding ourselves, or can we.
“Conclusions: A low-fat diet was not significantly associated with adverse glycemic effects up to 6 y after random assignment in postmenopausal women. However, diabetic women experienced adverse glycemic effects of the low-fat diet. This trial is registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00000611.
Received December 21, 2010.
Accepted April 15, 2011.”
I just read a blog post from a poltical/policy site discussing something called the “Free to Choose Medicine Initiative.” (available at: http://www.frumforum.com/fast-tracking-the-fda ). i think this could be especially interesting as there is not a great deal of cross-talk between the political reading I do and the scientific discussions that occur on this site
The article discussed the possibility of a second approval track through the FDA, that would basically be saying, “We think this is generally safe, but we haven’t gotten through enough testing & trials to be entirely certain, but doctors & patients may choose to accept a heightened risk and utilize the medication.”
Some other details (e.g., full disclosure by pharmaceutical companies in re: 2nd-track drugs, mandatory reporting into a central database, etc.) are offered, but I am wondering if you have heard of this proposal and what you make of it? The opinion piece, if not the proposal itself, seems reasonable and well intentioned, but I am interested in a take that more explicitly addresses the ethical considerations affecting the choice to use riskier medication.
I know that you advocate for using the best available evidence to make the best decision balancing risk and benefit. It appears that this, or a modified version, could fulfill that goal, but what is your take? This would seem to be an area where a scientific-minded physician can contribute as the emotional appeal to allowing for extraordinary and experimental measures can be great
Annie Jacobsen a contributing editor at LA Times Magazine has written a book ‘Area 51′ about …well area 51.She was interviewed today on Fresh Air by Terry Gross.Much of the early part of the interview was about various military secrets surrounding the base,but the part that caught my ear was when she went off the rails about a conspiracy theory concerning the Roswell incident.Ex:
“The Horten brothers were involved in the flying disc crash in New Mexico. And that is from a single source. … There was an unusual moment where that source became very upset and told me things that were stunning that’s almost impossible to believe at first read. And that is that a flying disc really did crash in New Mexico and it was transported to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and then in 1951 it was transferred to Area 51, which is why the base is called Area 51. And the stunning part of the reveal is that my source, who I absolutely believe and worked with for 18 months on this, was one of the engineers who received the equipment and he also received the people who were in the craft.
“The people were, according to the source, were child-sized pilots, and there’s a lot of debate about how old they were. He believes they were 13, although other people believe they may have been older. But this is a firsthand witness to this, and I made a decision to write about this in the very end of the book, after I take the traditional journalist form of telling you everything in the third person, I switch and I kind of lean into the reader and I say, ‘Look, this is not why Area 51 is classified to the point where no one in the government will admit it exists. The reason is because what one man told me.’ And then using the first person, I tell you what I was told. And there’s no doubt that people are going to be upset, alarmed and skeptical of this information, but I absolutely believe the veracity of my source, and I believe it was important that I put this information out there because it is the tip of a very big iceberg.”
This topic isn’t quite neurology but I think it is quite interesting (and is in my area of expertise, pharmacology).
Have you thought about doing a piece on the pseudoephedrine/phenylephrine debate? With the methamphetamine problem in many Western countries, it is quite a topical discussion and with governments looking for an alternative there is a big push for phenylephrine as a replacement. Personally, I suffer from hayfever and pseudoephedrine is one of the few treatments that provide me with relief. Unfortunately, it is getting harder to find pharmacies that stock pseudoephedrine-containing products and I find that OTC oral phenylephrine is ineffective. Having had a look at some of the literature myself, there is certainly an interesting debate going on that is a small microcosm of the scientific process and the external factors that influence it.
“The director of GM Freeze, an umbrella group for community, consumer and environmental organisations opposed to GM farming, described the research as ‘very significant’.
Pete Riley said: ‘This research is a major surprise as it shows that the Bt proteins have survived the human digestive system and passed into the blood supply – something that regulators said could not happen.
‘Regulators need to urgently reassess their opinions, and the EU should use the safeguard clauses in the regulations to prevent any further GM Bt crops being cultivated or imported for animal feed or food until the potential health implications have been fully evaluated.’
The Agriculture Biotechnology Council, which speaks for the GM industry, questioned the reliability and value of the research.
Its chairman, Dr Julian Little, said: ‘The study is based on analysis that has been used in previous feeding studies and has been found to be unreliable.’
He said the toxins found are also used in other farming systems and gardening ‘with no harm to human health’.
Dr Little said: ‘Biotech crops are rigorously tested for safety prior to their use and over two trillion meals made with GM ingredients have been safely consumed around the world over the past 15 years without a single substantiated health issue.’”
Last night my local PBS station in Dallas aired a program titled:
‘Under Our Skin: A Health Care Nightmare’
It was a very biased and manipulative documentary on Chronic Lyme Disease and how “Big Pharma” and the insurance companies and mainstream medicine are preventing CLD sufferers from getting treatment (long term antibiotics).
I know that you have written about the CLD controversy previously and wondered if you had seen this piece of propaganda,and what you made of it.I was very disappointed that my PBS station aired this,and wish that they could balance it out with better science based information.
I keep thinking about a couple years back when a blind man was shown not to consciously see things, but he could still move around fairly well because he subconsciously saw them. The connections were still firing in his visual cortex, he just wasn’t aware of it.