Thursday, May 21, 2015

Great experiments

R. Rossen, H. Kabat, J.P. Anderson. Acute arrest of cerebral circulation in man.
Arch. Neurol Psychiatry, 50 (1943), pp. 510–528
In order to study the effect of acute cerebral anoxia in man, a new technic was devised, which used the Kabat-Rossen-Anderson apparatus. This procedure is essentially an adaptation to the human subject of the method devised by one of us for producing arrest of cerebral circulation by means of a cervical pressure cuff. Acute arrest of circulation in the human brain was studied in 11 schizophrenic patients and in 126 normal young male subjects. No deleterious effects were observed from repeated tests on these subjects...
The Kabat-Rossen-Anderson apparatus has been designed to induce temporary arrest of circulation in the human brain without affecting the respiratory tract. This is accomplished by means of a specially designed inflatable cervical pressure cuff, held down to the lower third of the neck. The pressure in the cuff rises to 600 mm. of mercury within one-eighth second. The subject himself, as well as the physician, controls the deflation of the cuff, which can be accomplished within a fraction of a second. The apparatus allows full observation of the sitting subject at all times for accurate recording. The reactions of the subject may readily be recorded by means of devices such as the electrocardiograph and the electroencephalograph. The sudden inflation of the cuff to a high pressure causes occlusion of the vessels to the brain before the next heart beat, so that engorgement of the cerebral vessels is prevented.
The pressure cuff has been improved in the course of this investigation, so that the earlier experiments on the schizophrenic patients and normal subjects are valuable chiefly for their qualitative observations.
The procedure has been applied repeatedly to the same subjects, with no injurious effects. Periods of acute arrest of cerebral circulation for as long as one hundred seconds appear to be well tolerated and are followed by rapid and uneventful recovery.
See also below Breathholding spells April 15, 2015.


  1. BAIRD HW, GARFUNKEL JM. Electroencephalographic changes in children with
    artificially induced hyperthermia. J Pediatr. 1956 Jan;48(1):28-33.

    Hyperthermia was produced by the intravenous administration of 1 c.c. of a typhoid vaccine containing 100 million organisms per cubic centimeter ; the same dose was given to all subjects regardless of age. Previous experience indicated the likelihood of a rise in temperature above 103° F. with this dose...

    1. The electroencephalographs of twelve children were recorded following the intravenous administration of typhoid vaccine.
    2. Seven children had a history of three or more convulsions with fever; three had no family or personal history of convulsions of any kind; one had a history of a previously abnormal electroencephalogram; and one had a twin brother who had febrile convulsions.
    3. Electroencephalographic changes consisting of high-voltage slow waves, increase delta activity, spike-and-wave formations, and some seizure discharges occurred in all tracings.
    4. The fact that otherwise normal children have electroencephalographic changes during and shortly after a febrile episode without convulsions should be considered in the interpretation of electroencephalographic changes following a febrile convulsion...

    St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia awards the Henry W. Baird Award for excellence in teaching, spirit of inquiry, and compassion for patients and their families.

  2. From the Rossen paper cited above 5/21/15: Effects of Prolonged Arrest of Cerebral Circulation in Patients with Mental Disease.—Arrest of cerebral circulation for as long as one hundred seconds was carried out on 11 schizophrenic patients. These studies were made early with a technic which often failed to produce complete arrest of cerebral blood flow, so that the results were variable. However, qualitative changes resulting from these long periods of arrest of blood flow are of interest. In these tests the subject was supine...

    Psychiatric Observations : No significant improvement in the psychiatric status of the schizophrenic patients was noted after repeated and relatively prolonged periods of arrest of cerebral circulation. In some subjects behavior was more nearly normal for several minutes after recovery of consciousness following prolonged cerebral anoxia. Two catatonic patients who had not spoken for a long time responded rationally to questions for several minutes after recovery. In several patients characteristic mannerisms disappeared during this period. The failure to demonstrate therapeutic effects from the procedure may perhaps be related to the fact that all the patients had suffered from schizophrenia for longer than five years, that some were greatly deteriorated and that all had failed to improve with insulin and metrazol therapy...

    The subjects were 126 apparently normal male volunteers, ranging in age from 17 to 31 years. Eighty-two of the men were inmates of the Minnesota State Reformatory, St. Cloud, Minn., and ranged in age from 17 to 25 years. The other subjects were at the Minnesota State Prison in Stillwater, Minn., and ranged in age from 21 to 31 years. Repeated tests were carried out on 85 of these subjects. Similar tests were also performed on the investigators and their associates.

  3. A colleague indicated that this was truly functional MRI.

    Faix A, Lapray JF, Courtieu C, Maubon A, Lanfrey K. Magnetic resonance imaging
    of sexual intercourse: initial experience. J Sex Marital Ther. 2001

    The objective of this study was to investigate sexual intercourse with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A volunteer couple (30 year-old male, 27-year-old female) with a normal sex life, had face-to-face sexual intercourse (reversed missionary position) under MRI. Static and dynamic T2-weighted sagittal sequencies were acquired on the midline before and during vaginal penetration. In this position, before penetration, the vagina was parallel to the pubococcygeal line and had normal anterior convexity. After penetration, accentuation of the vaginal convexity was observed, produced by the penile gland reaching the anterior cul-de-sac and contact with the anterior vaginal wall. The posterior bladder wall was pushed forward and upward, the uterus upward and backward. In this initial experience, we observed a preferential contact of the penis in erection with the anterior vaginal wall and the anterior cul-de-sac in the face-to-face sexual position. MRI allows a noninvasive assessment of sexual intercourse.

  4. Schultz WW, van Andel P, Sabelis I, Mooyaart E. Magnetic resonance imaging of
    male and female genitals during coitus and female sexual arousal. BMJ. 1999 Dec

    To find out whether taking images of the male and female genitals during coitus is feasible and to find out whether former and current ideas about the anatomy during sexual intercourse and during female sexual arousal are based on assumptions or on facts.
    Observational study.
    University hospital in the Netherlands.
    Magnetic resonance imaging was used to study the female sexual response and the male and female genitals during coitus. Thirteen experiments were performed with eight couples and three single women.
    The images obtained showed that during intercourse in the "missionary position" the penis has the shape of a boomerang and 1/3 of its length consists of the root of the penis. During female sexual arousal without intercourse the uterus was raised and the anterior vaginal wall lengthened. The size of the uterus did not increase during sexual arousal.
    Taking magnetic resonance images of the male and female genitals during coitus is feasible and contributes to understanding of anatomy.

  5. From the Ig Noble prizes 2009:

    MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.

    REFERENCE: "Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?", Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 41, no. 5, 1998, pp. 949-50.


    PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.

    REFERENCE: "Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins," Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature, vol. 450, 1075-1078 (December 13, 2007). DOI:10.1038/nature06342.

    WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Katherine Whitcome and Daniel Lieberman


  6. David S. Lee, Eunjung Kim, Norbert Schwarz. Something smells fishy: Olfactory suspicion cues improve performance on the Moses illusion and Wason rule discovery task. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Volume 59, July 2015, Pages 47–50.

    Feelings of suspicion alert people not to take information at face value. In many languages, suspicion is metaphorically associated with smell; in English, this smell is “fishy”. We tested whether incidental exposure to fishy smells influences information processing. In Study 1, participants exposed to incidental fishy smells (vs. no odor) while answering questions were more likely to detect a semantic distortion (the “Moses illusion”), but not more likely to falsely identify an undistorted question as misleading. In Study 2, participants exposed to fishy smells (vs. no odor) were more likely to engage in negative hypothesis testing (falsifying their own initial hunch), resulting in better performance on the Wason rule discovery task. These findings show that incidental olfactory suspicion cues can affect performance on social as well as nonsocial reasoning tasks.

    Courtesy of:

  7. Marco Bertamini, Letizia Palumbo, Tamara Nicoleta Gheorghes, Mai Galatsidas
    Do observers like curvature or do they dislike angularity? British Journal of Psychology (2015) in press

    Humans have a preference for curved over angular shapes, an effect noted by artists as well as scientists. Itmay be that people like smooth curves or that people dislike angles, or both. We investigated this phenomenon in four experiments. Using abstract shapes differing in type of contour (angular vs. curved) and complexity, Experiment 1 confirmed a preference for curvature not linked to perceived complexity. Experiment 2 tested whether the effect was modulated by distance. If angular shapes are associated with a threat, the effect may be stronger when they are presented within peripersonal space. This hypothesis was not supported. Experiment 3 tested whether preference for curves occurs when curved lines are compared to straight lines without angles. Sets of coloured lines (angular vs. curved vs.straight) were seen through a circular or square aperture. Curved lines were liked more than either angular or straight lines. Therefore, angles are not necessary to generate a preference for curved shapes. Finally, Experiment 4 used an implicit measure of preference, the manikin task, to measure approach/avoidance behaviour. Results did not confirm a pattern of avoidance for angularity but only a pattern of approach for curvature. Our experiments suggest that the threat association hypothesis cannot fully explain the curvature effect and that curved shapes are, per se, visually pleasant.

    Courtesy of:

  8. The Gastropod podcast (perhaps the most delicious of all podcasts) tastes the taste-and-sound experimental research of 2008 Ig Nobel Prize winner Charles Spence. Here’s a snippet, in print form:

    “Food and drink are among life’s most multisensory experiences,” Spence pointed out, so it’s perhaps hardly surprising that it occurred to him that the parchment skin illusion might work in the mouth, using food rather than clothing. He recruited 200 volunteers willing to eat Pringles for science, and played them modified crunching sounds through headphones, some louder and some more muffled, as they ate. And he found that he could make a 15 percent difference in people’s perception of a stale chip’s freshness by playing them a louder crunch when they bit into it.

    “The party version” of this trick, according to Spence, was developed by colleagues in the Netherlands and Japan. Volunteers were asked to crunch on chips in time with a metronome, while researchers played crunching sounds back, in perfect synchrony, through their headphones. All was well until the researchers replaced the crunching with the sound of breaking glass—and “people’s jaws just freeze up.”….
    Courtesy of:

  9. Gary J Macfarlane, Marcus Beasley. Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk (and severity) of chronic widespread pain: Results from a UK population-based study. Arthritis Care & Research. In press.

    Objectives: To determine whether reported level of alcohol consumption is associated with the likelihood of reporting chronic widespread pain (CWP) and, amongst persons with CWP, the associated disability.

    Methods: A population-based study in two areas of the United Kingdom. Participants self-completed a postal questionnaire. They were classified according to whether they met the American College of Rheumatology definition of CWP and whether the pain was disabling (Chronic Pain Grade III or IV). They reported their usual level of alcohol consumption. Potential confounding factors on which information was available included age, gender, cigarette smoking, employment status, self-reported weight and height and level of deprivation.

    Results: 13574 persons participated (mean age 55 years; 57% female) of whom 2239 (16.5%) had CWP: 28% reported never regularly consuming alcohol, 28% consuming up to 5 units/wk, 20% 6-10 units/wk and 24% more than 10 units/wk. Amongst persons with CWP, disability was strongly linked to level of alcohol consumption. Prevalence of disability decreased with increasing alcohol consumption up to 35 unit/wk (Odds Ratio (OR)21-35 units alcohol/wk v. never drinkers 0.33 95% CI (0.19,0.58)) adjusted for confounders. A similar relationship was found between reporting CWP and level of alcohol consumption (adjOR21-35 units alcohol/wk v. regular drinkers 0.76 95% CI (0.61-0.94).

    Conclusions: This study has demonstrated strong associations between level of alcohol consumption and CWP . However the available evidence does not allow us to conclude that the association is causal. The strength of the associations means that specific studies to examine this potential relationship are warranted.

    Courtesy of:

  10. A well investigated case report:

    A Ted talk by the author:

  11. Mohtashami F, Thiele A, Karreman E, Thiel J. Comparing technical dexterity of
    sleep-deprived versus intoxicated surgeons. JSLS. 2014 Oct-Dec;18(4).



    The evidence on the effect of sleep deprivation on the cognitive and motor skills of physicians in training is sparse and conflicting, and the evidence is nonexistent on surgeons in practice. Work-hour limitations based on these data have contributed to challenges in the quality of surgical education under the apprentice model, and as a result there is an increasing focus on competency-based education. Whereas the effects of alcohol intoxication on psychometric performance are well studied in many professions, the effects on performance in surgery are not well documented. To study the effects of sleep deprivation on the surgical performance of surgeons, we compared simulated the laparoscopic skills of staff gynecologists "under 2 conditions": sleep deprivation and ethanol intoxication. We hypothesized that the performance of unconsciously competent surgeons does not deteriorate postcall as it does under the influence of alcohol.


    Nine experienced staff gynecologists performed 3 laparoscopic tasks in increasing order of difficulty (cup drop, rope passing, pegboard exchange) on a box trainer while sleep deprived (<3 hours in 24 hours) and subsequently when legally intoxicated (>0.08 mg/mL blood alcohol concentration). Three expert laparoscopic surgeons scored the anonymous clips online using Global Objective Assessment of Laparoscopic Skills criteria: depth perception, bimanual dexterity, and efficiency. Data were analyzed by a mixed-design analysis of variance.


    There were large differences in mean performance between the tasks. With increasing task difficulty, mean scores became significantly (P < .05) poorer. For the easy tasks, the scores for sleep-deprived and intoxicated participants were similar for all variables except time. Surprisingly, participants took less time to complete the easy tasks when intoxicated. However, the most difficult task took less time but was performed significantly worse compared with being sleep deprived. Notably, the evaluators did not recognize a lack of competence for the easier tasks when intoxicated; incompetence surfaced only in the most difficult task.


    Being intoxicated hinders the performance of more difficult simulated laparoscopic tasks than being sleep deprived, yet surgeons were faster and performed better on simple tasks when intoxicated.

  12. Drunk philosophers, studied in a bar in France

    Ig Nobel Prize winner Laurent Bègue and colleague Aaron Duke have a new study about the effect of drunkenness on philosophy. The study is: “The drunk utilitarian: Blood alcohol concentration predicts utilitarian responses in moral dilemmas,” Aaron A. Duke and Laurent Bègue, Cognition, 134 (2015): 121-127.

    The 2013 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology was awarded to Laurent Bègue, Brad Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, and Medhi Ourabah, for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. (REFERENCE: ” ‘Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder’: People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive,” Laurent Bègue, Brad J. Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Medhi Ourabah, British Journal of Psychology, Volume 104, Issue 2, pages 225–234, May 2013.)
    Courtesy of:

  13. (see above)
    Duke AA, Bègue L. The drunk utilitarian: blood alcohol concentration predicts
    utilitarian responses in moral dilemmas. Cognition. 2015 Jan;134:121-7.


    The hypothetical moral dilemma known as the trolley problem has become a methodological cornerstone in the psychological study of moral reasoning and yet, there remains considerable debate as to the meaning of utilitarian responding in these scenarios. It is unclear whether utilitarian responding results primarily from increased deliberative reasoning capacity or from decreased aversion to harming others. In order to clarify this question, we conducted two field studies to examine the effects of alcohol intoxication on utilitarian responding. Alcohol holds promise in clarifying the above debate because it impairs both social cognition (i.e., empathy) and higher-order executive functioning. Hence, the direction of the association between alcohol and utilitarian vs. non-utilitarian responding should inform the relative importance of both deliberative and social processing systems in influencing utilitarian preference. In two field studies with a combined sample of 103 men and women recruited at two bars in Grenoble, France, participants were presented with a moral dilemma assessing their willingness to sacrifice one life to save five others. Participants' blood alcohol concentrations were found to positively correlate with utilitarian preferences (r=.31, p<.001) suggesting a stronger role for impaired social cognition than intact deliberative reasoning in predicting utilitarian responses in the trolley dilemma. Implications for Greene's dual-process model of moral reasoning are discussed.

    Bègue L, Bushman BJ, Zerhouni O, Subra B, Ourabah M. 'Beauty is in the eye of
    the beer holder': people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. Br J Psychol. 2013 May;104(2):225-34.


    This research examines the role of alcohol consumption on self-perceived attractiveness. Study 1, carried out in a barroom (N= 19), showed that the more alcoholic drinks customers consumed, the more attractive they thought they were. In Study 2, 94 non-student participants in a bogus taste-test study were given either an alcoholic beverage (target BAL [blood alcohol level]= 0.10 g/100 ml) or a non-alcoholic beverage, with half of each group believing they had consumed alcohol and half believing they had not (balanced placebo design). After consuming beverages, they delivered a speech and rated how attractive, bright, original, and funny they thought they were. The speeches were videotaped and rated by 22 independent judges. Results showed that participants who thought they had consumed alcohol gave themselves more positive self-evaluations. However, ratings from independent judges showed that this boost in self-evaluation was unrelated to actual performance.