I love making podcasts. They work on my behalf around the clock-anyone with an internet connection can listen to my ideas and to topics that I care about at their convenience. They also take comparatively less time to make than blog posts, at least in my experience.

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I’ve been podcasting for over three years as co-host and producer of Everything Hertz, so I’ve learnt a thing or two along the way. Given the increasing interest in podcasting, and the growing number of requests I get for a podcast guide, I’ve put together this blog post. …

It’s Valentines Day, which means there’s a lot of talk about oxytocin-the so-called “love hormone”. But despite the appeal of this label it’s actually a little misleading. So let me walk you through this hormone’s history and why the real role of oxytocin is much more interesting.

Oxytocin-like hormones are about 600 million years old, which is a long time before there was any evidence of “love”, or couple bonding. The sea sponge, considered one of the most ancient animal species, has no oxytocin-like signalling, suggesting it emerged in more modern species.

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The sea squirt, which is a little less…

Last Sunday, I came across a video posted on the Imgur twitter account.

As a psychological scientist, I knew that this video and comment alluded to the famous bird/rabbit illusion, first popularised by psychologist Joseph Jastrow, but originally published in 1982.

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Source: Wikipedia (Public domain)

Even in light of the comment attached to Imgur’s tweet, I still thought it was fairly obvious that the animal was a bird. …

You might be frustrating the people who peer-review you manuscripts without even realising it. Here are some brief tips on reducing peer review friction from my (limited) experience as an author, reviewer, and associate editor.

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Copy and paste each reviewer comment (number them yourself if you have to) and respond to each one in turn. This seems like common sense, but I’ve come across many responses to my peer-review queries in which I have to spend time searching and figuring out which comment the authors are actually responding to.

Don’t just write something like, “We updated the introduction”. Paste in…

Meta-analysis has become a popular tool to synthesise data from a body of work investigating a common research question. As this provides a putatively objective means of summarising a body of data, it has become the gold standard for evidence when developing health guidelines.

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However, there are several issues in meta-analysis that can contribute to inaccuracies. Due to these limitations, meta-analysis — or “mega-silliness”, to borrow a term from an early detractor — has been criticised for almost as long as the method has been available.

There are several tools to help ensure meta-analysis quality, which will be outlined later…

I just came across a new study that investigated the relationship between generalised anxiety symptoms and automonic nervous system function. This is an interesting research question given that generalised anxiety symptoms are often associated with autonomic arousal symptoms, like sweating and palpitations.

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Generalised anxiety symptoms are often associated with autonomic arousal symptoms

In this study, 32 participants with social anxiety disorder and 23 neurotypical controls were recruited. Heart rate variability (HRV) was used to approximate autonomic control of the heart rate. The authors concluded that there was no relationship between generalised anxiety symptoms and HRV.

Now the thing with conventional null hypothesis test p-values is that you can only reject

I spoke with Matt Wall about a recent study he co-authored investigating the role of kisspeptin on emotional brain processing for my Physiology and Behavior show. Here’s the transcript of the episode.

To listen to this episode, use the player below or follow this link to the show page.

Dan: A paper recently came out on how the hormone kisspeptin modulates sexual and emotional brain processing. I asked Matt Wall, one of the study co-authors, about the origins of kisspeptin and it’s unusual name.

Matt: Kisspeptin is a peptide hormone, it was discovered in the late 90s, and it…

I just launched a new show, where you’ll find a mix of episodes on research that’s catching my eye in psychiatry and psychology, interviews with other scientists, me sharing my daily research process, and Q&A sessions.

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There are two reasons I’ve started this show. First, a few months ago I noticed I was spending almost all my time writing papers and almost no time reading papers. My reading of papers was reactionary, in that I was reading papers only so I could cite them to prove a point or address a comment from a manuscript reviewer.

“…in science there’s a…

The neuropeptide oxytocin is thought to play an important role in social behavior. To better understand how the oxytocin system influences our thoughts and behaviors, researchers often collect blood samples to calculate levels of circulating oxytocin for comparison to various measures of psychological functioning.

As lower oxytocin levels have been associated with psychological dysfunction, oxytocin levels might provide a useful psychological biomarker. If it’s established that lower oxytocin levels are associated with dysfunction, then pharmacologically increasing oxytocin levels may help alleviate psychological and behavioral impairments.

In parallel to this, researchers also need to demonstrate that a dose of synthetic oxytocin…

Meta-analyses are used to synthesize bodies of research and can carry considerable weight when it comes to directing policy. However, a big limitation with this method is that the studies included in a meta-analysis can be biased.

Publication bias is a well-known source of bias. For instance, researchers might shelve studies that aren’t statistically significant, as journals are less likely to publish these kind of results. Researchers might also use questionable research practices — also known as p-hacking — to nudge an effect across the line to statistical significance.

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P-hacking in action

Consequently, the risk of publication bias needs to be considered when…

Dan Quintana

Researcher at Oslo University in Biological Psychiatry

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