Retraction reaction

Nobel prize-winning neuroscientist Linda Buck has retracted a 2001 Nature paper. In the retraction in this week’s Nature, the authors report difficulty replicating the data and ‘inconsistencies’ between the original data and figures and data printed in the paper. Buck told Nature reporter Heidi Ledford that the figures and data in question were contributed by the first author, Zhihua Zou, who was unavailable for comment.  Read more

Anti antidepressants

By now, you’ve likely read a shocking headline questioning the effectiveness of the latest generation of antidepressants. Kirsch et al. report that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are only slightly more effective than placebos at reducing depression in a meta-analysis of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data. Are these data really worth all the fuss?  Read more

Separate but not equal?

If a disease affects men and women differently, does the disease’s mechanism differ by sex? My guess would be no. However, a recent article has me wondering. Schizophrenia symptoms, age of onset, and disease course differ in men and women, and some researchers report increased risk of schizophrenia in men relative to women. Now Shifman et al. report a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) associated with schizophrenia in women but not men in a recent article in PLoS Genetics.  Read more

Circular logic?

What causes autism? The lack of answers or even particularly good leads is frustrating to say the least. Not surprisingly, people both within the scientific community and the general public are hungry for answers, and my general opinion is that the more information the better. However, I’m a little puzzled by a report from the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual Festival of Science.  Read more

Spare change

Nominations open Monday for the first Kavli prizes in neuroscience, astrophysics and nanoscience. One $1,000,000 prize will be awarded for each of the three fields in Norway next year. Sound like another Scandanavian award? Unlike Nobel prizes, which tend to reward scientists at the ends of their careers, the Kavli Prize will recognize innovation, according to a recent article in Time magazine. Fred Kavli, a Norwegian physicist/business mogul/philanthropist, has been funding giant awards for (the odd mix of scientific pursuits) neuroscience, astrophysics and nanoscience research at universities, like Caltech, Harvard, MIT and Cambridge. So, if you know of a deserving neuroscientist, the application deadline is 15 December.  Read more

Down the drain

If you think managing chemical waste in your lab is like throwing money down the drain, imagine how Daniel Storm feels. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, rather than paying $15,000 to properly dispose of 5 cans of ethyl ether, the professor of pharmacology at the University of Washington took an axe to them and poured them down the drain. According to Nature, Storm falsified waste manifest sheets in an attempt to cover up the crime. Storm was sentenced to 3 years of probation, 80 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine in U. S. District Court and is undergoing university disciplinary review.  Read more

We’re about to nail this mother to the door

That’s what Gary Lynch said of the physiological mechanism of memory in 2005 when L. A. Times reporter Terry McDermott asked to visit Lynch’s University of California, Irvine lab. McDermott returned repeatedly, and his findings were featured last week in an epic four-part series in the L. A. Times.  Read more

Toxic avengers

It’s been a tough month for parents. Open a newspaper, and you are virtually guaranteed to read about the latest environmental toxin seeping into children’s blood and endangering neuronal or reproductive development. Mattel recalled toys that may be coated in lead paint. Meanwhile, a committee at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) declared ‘some concern’ that a compound in many plastics, bisphenol A (BPA), affects neuronal development. And finally, the University of California at Davis announced a several million dollar study of possible environmental triggers for autism.  Read more

Ladies in waiting

Keeping the commoners happy is easy when you have pharmacology on your side. Complex caste systems exist throughout the animal kingdom, but is it purely social feedback that keeps us all in our places? Vergoz, Shreurs and Mercer report that a pheromone prevents worker honeybees from forming aversive associations while they serve the queen in a recent article in Science.  Read more