Neuroscience and Social Sciences

A recent article published in The Lancet alleges that the number of police killings of unarmed black men is causing the mental health of black Americans to decline. Police killings of unarmed black Americans started to gain a lot of media traction in the past decade - with the rise of social media, perceived racial tensions, and the Black Lives Matter movement, news of these types of events travels far and fast.

While it makes sense that violent killings of people by law enforcement may contribute to increased public anxiety and subsequent poor mental health, we still want to make sure that the conclusion is based on an objective look at the data and not just an appeal to...

In science and health, we are often looking for results that are considered to be “statistically significant.” The golden rule is if the p-value is less than 0.05, then the result is statistically significant, or “publishable.” However, the interpretation and use of p-values is often misconstrued.

What is a p-value?

A p-value is the probability of observing a test statistic as extreme as the data shows, given that the null hypothesis is true. It does NOT tell you what the probability of the hypothesis is given the data. Confusing these two is equivalent to mixing up “given that someone is Catholic, what is the probability that they are the Pope?” and “given that someone is the Pope, what is the probability that they are Catholic?”

How are p...

The match is on the line.

This penalty kick will decide it all. Sweat is dripping down the kicker's face. The goalie's too. They glare at each other. The kicker takes a deep breath. All the pressure is on him. The referee blows his whistle. He trots a few steps toward the ball, aims, and kicks as hard as he can. The goalie dives to the left, but...

GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!!!!

The kicker celebrates. The goalie buries his head in his hands. He guessed incorrectly. But if only he had listened to science, the goalie would have just stood in the middle of the goal. Then, he might have had a better chance to make the save of his life.

Several years ago, a team of Israeli researchers examined the distribution of 286 penalty kicks as well as the direction in which the...

There is increasing evidence that a correlation exists between a person’s social support and engagement and their longevity. At a bare minimum, it makes sense because it is challenging to manage chronic disease or recovery from hospitalization on your own. A new study looks at religious participation as a marker for that social integration and to avoid the bias of self-reported religious activity; the researchers measured religious involvement noted in obituaries. (Of course, they might also have induced a bit of bias on the report of grieving family members writing those obituaries)

There is a clear link between attendance at religious services and social support, even the number of close friends. Involvement in any group activity in the long-term fosters more social...

There is a common complaint I get from the public: scientists who know the most about a topic are often the least able to give people a straight answer.

We know this is true, but we also know science can be complex. We all want the easy narrative, the definitive response, but that is not always realistic.

However, it is almost always necessary because regulations will happen and policymakers won't have PhDs.

When the public read ambiguous answers from experts, they begin to tone them out. If they read an article about Chemical X where a scientist states, "there is no conclusive research that shows Chemical X is linked to greater adverse outcomes" and then they read an environmental lawyer who states, "Scientists agree that Chemical X may be causing these cancers",...

Dead at 53.

Another former professional athlete from the National Hockey League.

Another player subject to collisions, head trauma, on-ice fist fighting, and, of course, concussions – like the one in 1991 that rendered him unconscious on the ice and ended his brief, five-year career.

Another premature death, which followed a post-hockey life marked by disorientation and an overall inability to function.

And, now that the results of his posthumous brain examination are in, we now must add Jeff Parker to the running list of former hockey players who developed CTE during their careers.

“It’s very hard to deny a link, I think, at this point,” said Dr. Ann McKee, as quoted by the New York Times.  

But one prominent denier, continuing to...

Suicide and homicide rates show strikingly different trends in the United States.

The suicide rate has been increasing. It has been led by a rise in suicides in rural America, which are up 40% in 16 years. The homicide rate, on the other hand, has been decreasing over the same time period, though there has been a slight uptick in recent years.

Racial differences in homicide and suicide rates are particularly eye-catching. Over the past week, the CDC has released data, first on suicides:

...

Randa Jarrar, an English professor at Fresno State, is rightfully in hot water. In a Twitter tirade, she called the recently deceased Barbara Bush an "amazing racist" and said she was "happy the witch is dead." For good measure, she wished death upon the rest of the Bush Family.

Let's set aside the issues of free speech and tenure to focus on a bigger underlying concern: The psychology of pure, unadulterated hatred. How does a person become so consumed with animosity for a fellow human being?

Hatred is a toxic emotion that can be understandable, such as when a person is the victim of a crime. Likewise, hatred of historical...

A video of a woman playing the flute while undergoing brain surgery for tremors has gone viral. The notion of a person being wide awake to perform a skilled task under such conditions captivated media outlets and the internet. Though it is quite miraculous each and every time, this neurosurgical procedure named deep brain stimulation (DBS) is quite established and has been around for many years improving the quality of life for those with Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders.

In this instance, Anna Henry is a professional musician who has endured tremors since childhood. With...

Despite the macabre nature of the grim discovery of a Medieval Italian woman’s body buried with her partially delivered unborn baby, the medical findings and their implications prove quite fascinating and educational. Though my colleagues at ACSH were unanimously horrified by the gruesome details of the case when I brought it to their attention and the notion of a post-mortem “coffin birth” in general, the account just published in World Neurosurgery marries my interests in neurosurgery (the field in which I started my career), maternal-fetal physiology and forensics while informing about the dynamic strides made over time in medical thinking.

After learning about this story, you will...