I have blogged before about on the tendency to grandiosity of neuroscience, or rather (very often) how the science media portray neuroscience. This phobia of neurohype is not the same as a suspicion of neuroscience. The ingenuity of the methodology of studies like this is staggering. I don’t have access via my usual library sources to recent issues of NeuroReport so I’m afraid that I can’t assess the study directly (in so far as as I am at a certain stage of clinical practice, and the consequent distance from what personal study of relevance I have done)
Fetal rhythm-based language discrimination: a biomagnetometry study
Minai, Utakoa; Gustafson, Kathleenb; Fiorentino, Roberta; Jongman, Allarda; Sereno, Joana
Neuroreport: 5 July 2017 – Volume 28 – Issue 10 – p 561–564
Using fetal biomagnetometry, this study measured changes in fetal heart rate to assess discrimination of two rhythmically different languages (English and Japanese). Two-minute passages in English and Japanese were read by the same female bilingual speaker. Twenty-four mother–fetus pairs (mean gestational age=35.5 weeks) participated. Fetal magnetocardiography was recorded while the participants were presented first with passage 1, a passage in English, and then, following an 18 min interval, with passage 2, either a different passage in English (English–English condition: N=12) or in Japanese (English–Japanese condition: N=12). The fetal magnetocardiogram was reconstructed following independent components analysis decomposition. The mean interbeat intervals were calculated for a 30 s baseline interval directly preceding each passage and for the first 30 s of each passage. We then subtracted the mean interbeat interval of the 30 s baseline interval from that of the first 30 s interval, yielding an interbeat interval change value for each passage. A significant interaction between condition and passage indicated that the English–Japanese condition elicited a more robust interbeat interval change for passage 2 (novelty phase) than for passage 1 (familiarity phase), reflecting a faster heart rate during passage 2, whereas the English–English condition did not. This effect indicates
that fetuses are sensitive to the change in language from English to Japanese. These findings provide the first evidence for fetal language discrimination as assessed by fetal biomagnetometry and support the hypothesis that rhythm constitutes a prenatally available building block in language acquisition.
More discoveries from Planet Embase:
Quality of smartphone apps related to panic: smartphone apps have a growing role in health care. This study assessed the quality of English-language apps for panic disorder (PD) and compared paid and free apps. Keywords related to PD were entered into the Google Play Store search engine. Apps were assessed using the following quality indicators: accountability, interactivity, self-help score (the potential of smartphone apps to help users in daily life), and evidence-based content quality. The Brief DISCERN score and the criteria of the “Health on the Net” label were also used as content quality indicators as well as the number of downloads. Of 247 apps identified, 52 met all inclusion criteria. The content quality and self-help scores of these PD apps were poor. None of the assessed indicators were associated with payment status or number of downloads. Multiple linear regressions showed that the Brief DISCERN score significantly predicted the content quality and self-help scores. Poor content quality and self-help scores of PD smartphone apps highlight the gap between their technological potential and the overall quality of available products.
In this case, the full paper is available here . From the introduction:
A number of recent studies have assessed the quality of medically oriented apps in various fields, such as smoking cessation, weight management, sleep, cancer, and diabetes (14–36). While acknowledging the potential opportunity offered by apps-related technologies, these studies concluded that the apps available from different stores, with few exceptions, were of overall poor quality. A gap was furthermore found between the considerable number of apps related to medical conditions available in stores and the low number of peer-reviewed papers about them (37). In particular, despite their potential to improve health care, mental health apps currently available in stores lack scientific evidence about their efficacy (38). With few exceptions (39–41), preliminary findings reported for health apps were similar to previous findings on the poor quality of health information websites (42–46).
Unsurprisingly then, the authors find that the quality of apps “for” Panic Disorder is …. poor.
Despite expectations about the potential of PD apps to improve treatments (51, 52), the apps available to users from stores to date need to be improved and to include more patterns of evidence-based information, more interactive assessments, such as ecological momentary assessments (67), and more self-help options.
Crowds aren’t always wise:
Factors related to the community success of a given app, such as the number of downloads and whether the app was recommended, as well as factors linked to the economic model, such as payment status or a link to paid content, were not associated with content quality or self-help scores. This is somewhat surprising, particularly in regard to the number of downloads. One might expect better quality for the most downloaded apps. The results are possibly limited by the assessments of apps found only on the Google Play Store as well as by the small number of apps with a high amount of downloads (only three apps with more than 5000 downloads).
This evening, I logged on to do some Embase screening:
Noting that there were a mere 100 records to screen, I worked away for a while, until:
With bated breath I screen the one remaining record (naturally enough, a Reject verdict), and after a bit of deliberation clicked on “Save and Exit”, to discover that :
Of course, I know that a gigantic batch of records will no doubt be delivered to Embase for screening, if it hasn’t already (and I am probably misunderstanding something even more basic) but, for the moment, there is a pleasing sensation of having reached the ultimate extreme of human knowledge (only mild hyperbole here!)
If it wasn’t for EMBASE screening, I would never have come across this gem:
Study of the personality of patients with spontaneous pneumothorax
Martín Martín M1, Cuesta Serrahima L, Rami Porta R, Soler Insa P, Mateu Navarro M.
Medical psychology has contributed to a greater understanding of many diseases that are predominantly medical and has also helped to improve prognosis. This study explores a surgical entity, namely spontaneous pneumothorax.
The aim was to compare the personality, depression, anxiety and type-A behavior pattern in a group of 34 patients with spontaneous pneumothorax to a group of 33 control patients admitted for a variety of minor surgical procedures.
MATERIAL AND METHODS:
The following objective assessment instruments were used: Trait Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, Jenkins Activity Inventory, Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. The questionnaires were administered before the intervention of the surgeon and after an informative interview.
The rate of type-A behavior was statistically different in the two groups. No differences were seen for personality, depression or anxiety.
We conclude that type-A behavior patterns should be reduced in patients who suffer spontaneous pneumothorax in order to improve outcome.
I love that sweeping conclusion “type-A behaviour patterns should be reduced” – just like that! – but also admire the researchers choice of an apparently unpromising area to research. I will try, if I have time, to read the original paper.
Ok, the headline is a little glib, and I don’t want to make fun of any actual addiction – but since discovering EMBASE screening at a HRB TMRN event on systematic reviews on Thursday last, I’ve been hooked.
EMBASE screening is very simple – as the Cochrane Collaboration Community Page on the project states “The project’s purpose is to identify reports of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs from EMBASE for publication in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL)” Put simply , “The EMBASE project provides an opportunity for new and potential contributors to get involved with Cochrane work by diving into a task that needs doing. No prior experience is necessary as the task supports a ‘learn as you do’ approach. ”
Basically the screener is presented with a title and abstract (occasionally just a title) and has to decide if this is an RCT/quasi-RCT, definitely not an RCT/quasi-RCT, or impossible to tell. There are lots of checks and balances so one shouldn’t worry about making a mistake. The interface is very simple and a good, clear training module is provided before you get stuck it.
This is a much better way of passing a few minutes with a smart phone than checking news sites again or again, or whatever your poison is…. and along the way I have come across some intriguing abstracts such as this and this (neither of which is a RCT)