Medical Hypotheses is an Elsevier journal that publishes highly speculative oddball ideas. The previous editor, Bruce G. Charlton, published pretty much anything he wanted without sending it out for peer review. This got him into a great deal of trouble with legitimate scientists (and ultimately, the publisher) when the dangerous HIV denialism of Peter Duesberg was accepted for publication (only to be later WITHDRAWN). Although savvy researchers know Medical Hypotheses is an outlet for cranks, its articles do appear in PubMed, lending it an air of legitimacy in the eyes of the unsuspecting public.
The journal is now edited by Mehar Manku and its mandate is:
...to give novel, radical new ideas and speculations in medicine open-minded consideration, opening the field to radical hypotheses which would be rejected by most conventional journals. Papers in Medical Hypotheses take a standard scientific form in terms of style, structure and referencing. The journal therefore constitutes a bridge between cutting-edge theory and the mainstream of medical and scientific communication, which ideas must eventually enter if they are to be critiqued and tested against observations.Submitted manuscripts are now reviewed by both the Editor and external reviewers. But why publish your highly speculative scientific [or pseudoscientific] ideas in a relatively esoteric forum, when you can reach millions and millions of readers with NO PEER REVIEW whatsoever? What sort of journal is this, you ask?
It's not a scientific journal at all, it's..... the Opinion Pages of the venerable New York Times!!
NYT Opinion Page or Medical Hypotheses? The Game!
The rules of NYTOPORMHTG are simple: guess which of the two outlets published the propositions and recommendations listed below.
(1) Meat is brain food
(2) Take magnesium if you're depressed
(3) Masturbate if you're congested
(4) Masturbate if you have restless legs syndrome
(5) Micron strokes cause Alzheimer's disease
(6) Joblessness causes suicide in U.S. military veterans
(7) Chronic traumatic encephalopathy causes suicide in veterans
(8) A noxious factor released into the third ventricle causes depression
(9) Enhanced activity in the anterior insula proves we love our iPhones
(10) Enhanced activity in the anterior insula proves disgust with John Edwards
(11) If you're about to have a panic attack, watch a scary movie
(12) Yoga is good for everything
(13) Stimulants cause PTSD
(14) PTSD causes chronic traumatic encephalopathy
(15) High heels cause schizophrenia
NYT - 1, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14MH - 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, 12, 15Sleep Medicine (trick question!) - 4
Of the recent opinion pieces in the NYT, I found item #14 by Nicholas Kristof to be particularly egregious, inaccurate, and irresponsible. He cites one terrible (albeit published) case study claiming that chronic traumatic encephalopathy can be caused by post-traumatic stress disorder and considers no alternate explanations. I will address the issues he raised in a future post.
Item #13 by Dr. Richard A. Friedman was speculative and bothersome but ultimately less objectionable. He suggested there's a causal relationship between higher rates of stimulant prescriptions in the US military and rising rates of PTSD. I was very skeptical (because there's no evidence for that) and critical because the article leads the lay reader to believe that Ritalin and other stimulants cause PTSD. Ultimately, he put a "correlation does not equal causation" caveat at the very end, but by then the rhetorical damage was already done.
(1) Meat Is Brain Food - NYT
(2) Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: A review and hypothesis - MH
(3) Ejaculation as a potential treatment of nasal congestion in mature males - MH
(4) Sexual intercourse and masturbation: Potential relief factors for restless legs syndrome? - SM[also see Orgasm for Relief of Restless Legs Syndrome: A Case Study]
(5) The Micron Stroke Hypothesis of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia - MH
(6) The Best Medicine Just Might Be a Job - NYT
(7) Veterans and Brain Disease - NYT
(8) Depression as an evolutionary adaptation: Anatomical organisation around the third ventricle - MH
(9) You Love Your iPhone. Literally. - NYT[see also NYT Editorial + fMRI = complete crap and the New York Times blows it big time on brain imaging and Neuromarketing means never having to say you're peer reviewed (but here's your NYT op-ed space)]
(10) This Is Your Brain on Politics - NYT -- prompted a letter to the editor from 17 neuroscientists, Politics and the Brain[also see This Is Your Brain on Bad fMRI Studies and This Is Your Brain on Additional Critiques]
(11) Aborting panic attacks using false misattribution: a new treatment option - MH
(12) Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder - MH and Why Are We Discussing This? - NYT
(13) Why Are We Drugging Our Soldiers? - NYT
(14) Veterans and Brain Disease - NYT
(15) Is there an association between the use of heeled footwear and schizophrenia? - MH
Appendix: The Neurocritic on Medical Hypotheses
The pseudonymous ‘quant bloggers’- Figureheads, ghost-writers and pseudonymous quant bloggers: The recent evolution of authorship in science publishing.
Noxious mystery substance released into the third ventricle is the cause of depression! - Depression as an evolutionary adaptation: Anatomical organisation around the third ventricle.
JFK Neurotoxin Conspiracy Theory Published in Medical Hypotheses - President Kennedy's death: a poison arrow-assisted homicide.
Mirror Neuron Dance Party for Autism Spectrum Disorders - Synchronized dance therapy to stimulate mirror neurons in autism.
The Journal of Truly, Truly Outrageous Medical Hypotheses - Two for one! The classic, Is there an association between the use of heeled footwear and schizophrenia? and Two manic-depressives, two tyrants, two world wars.
More Truly, Truly Outrageous Medical Hypotheses - Ejaculation as a potential treatment of nasal congestion in mature males.
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