Drugs that weaken traumatic memories show promise for PTSD treatment

Memories of traumatic events often last a lifetime because they are so difficult to treat through behavioral approaches. A preclinical study in mice published in the journal Cell reveals that drugs known as histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACis) can enhance the brain’s ability to permanently replace old traumatic memories with new memories, opening promising avenues for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders.

“Psychotherapy is often used for treating PTSD, but it doesn’t always work, especially when the traumatic events occurred many years earlier,” said a Professor of Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This study provides a mechanism explaining why old memories are difficult to extinguish and shows that HDACis can facilitate psychotherapy to treat anxiety disorders such as PTSD.

One common treatment for anxiety disorders is exposure-based therapy, which involves exposing patients to fear-evoking thoughts or events in a safe environment. This process reactivates the traumatic memory, opening a short time window during which the original memory can be disrupted and replaced with new memories. Exposure-based therapy is effective when the traumatic events occurred recently, but until now, it was not clear whether it would also be effective for older traumatic memories.


Metabolic activity (green and red colors) in the hippocampus (white dotted line) of animals that underwent extinction training in combination with HDACis (right) is significantly higher than in animals that underwent extinction training alone (left). Metabolic activity serves to estimate the learning capacity of an animal.

In the first phase, the researchers exposed mice to a tone followed by an electrical foot shock. Once the mice learned to associate these two events, they began to freeze in fear upon hearing the tone by itself, even when they did not receive a shock.

Using an extinction protocol, which is similar to exposure-based therapy, the researchers repeatedly presented the tone without the shock to test whether the mice could unlearn the association between these two events and would stop freezing in response to the tone. The extinction protocol was successful for mice that were exposed to the tone-shock pairing just one day earlier, but it was not effective for mice that originally formed the traumatic memory one month earlier.


The abundance of dendrite in the hippocampus of animals that underwent extinction training in combination of HDACis (lower) is significantly higher than in animals s that underwent extinction training alone (upper). 

The researchers hypothesized that epigenetic modification of genes involved in learning and memory might be responsible for the diminished response of treatment for older memories. The researchers tested whether HDACis, which promote long-lasting activation of genes involved in learning and memory, could help replace old traumatic memories with new memories. Mice previously exposed to the tone-shock pairing received HDACis and then underwent the extinction protocol. These mice learned to stop freezing in response to the tone, even when they originally formed the traumatic memory one month earlier.

Collectively, our findings suggest that exposure-based therapy alone does not effectively weaken traumatic memories that were formed a long time ago, but that HDACis can be combined with exposure-based therapy to substantially improve treatment for the most enduring traumatic memories,” the researcher said.

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Posted in Biology, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Education, Health Education, Medicine, Neurology, Neuroscience, Neurosurgery, Science

New study confirms that eating healthy does indeed cost more

On average, eating healthy costs about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets, a new study finds. The extra cost seems insignificant at first — a small cup of coffee often costs more — but it all adds up to be a considerable barrier for many low-income families. Researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health set out to find the evidence behind the conventional wisdom that healthier foods cost more, conducting the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of price differences between healthy and unhealthy foods. In examining data from 10 high-income nations, researchers found that among food groups, meats and proteins had the largest cost difference, with healthier options costing 29 cents more per serving and 47 cents more per 200 calories than less healthy options. Overall, diets rich in healthy options — fruits, veggies, fish and nuts — cost significantly more than diets based on processed foods, meats and refined grains.

It’s less than what we might have expected, but it’s important to think about what $1.50 means to some people,” lead researcher said. “It translates to about $550 a year for one person, so that’s a lot for many low-income families, especially when you multiply it by three or four family members.

So, why the price gap? The research team said differences in manufacturing could explain some of it. For example, producing skinless chicken and leaner meats requires more work at the processing plant. They also gave a nod to arguments that years of agricultural policies and subsidies that favor the production of less healthy foods — “inexpensive, high volume” commodities like corn — have contributed to cheaper prices. Overall, they called for more research into the reasons underlying the price differences.

While the study, which was published last week in the journal BMJ, does emphasize that the collective cost of healthier eating is a real barrier for many families, the researcher said it’s still a “drop in the bucket” compared to what we spend on diet-related chronic disease. For instance, obesity is estimated to have cost the country as much as $147 billion in medical costs in 2008 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And many of the same low-income populations that have difficulty affording healthier foods also suffer disproportionately from diet-related chronic disease, such as obesity and diabetes. The research team wrote:

A daily price difference of $1.50 translates to $550 higher annual food costs per person. For many low-income families, this additional cost represents a genuine barrier to healthier eating. Yet, this daily price difference is trivial in comparison with the lifetime personal and societal financial burdens of diet-related chronic diseases. For example, suboptimal diet quality was recently estimated to account for 14% of all disability-adjusted life years in 2010 in the USA; if translated to a proportion of national health expenditures in 2012, this corresponds to diet-related healthcare costs of $393 billion/year or more than $1200/year for every American.

The researcher hopes the study will inform policy discussions, especially at a time when issues of food security and chronic disease are making headlines. The researcher said policies that favor healthy foods — such as taxing unhealthy choices and subsidizing healthy ones — is “one way to nudge people toward a healthier diet.” Another example is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, which is expected to experience a cut of $5 billion in fiscal year 2014 alone. Right now, SNAP benefits average out to about $1.40 per person per meal.

“A lot about how difficult it is to eat healthy on the minimal amount of assistance provided by SNAP and these findings shed some light on exactly what that barrier might be,” the researcher said. “Thinking about how to design those programs more effectively to help people buy healthier foods will only help contribute to long-term health.”

The researcher said, it’s quite gratifying to see the study resonate with so many people — “it speaks to the fact that it’s very much a part of people’s everyday lives.” But even though $1.50 may not be much to some, public health practitioners still face a challenge in changing people’s behaviors.


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Posted in Biology, Biotechnology, Case report, Chemistry, Communication, Economics, Education, Health Education, Interdisciplinary research, Journal article, Medical Communication, Medical Writing, Medicine, Molecular Biology, Review article, Science, Science and Technology, Scientific editing

Steps to writing an effective discussion section

The purpose of the Discussion is to state your interpretations and opinions, explain the implications of your findings, and make suggestions for future research. Its main function is to answer the questions posed in the Introduction, explain how the results support the answers and, how the answers fit in with existing knowledge on the topic. The Discussion is considered the heart of the
paper and usually requires several writing attempts.

The organization of the Discussion is important. Before beginning you should try to develop an outline to organize your thoughts in a logical form. You can use a cluster map, an issue tree, numbering, or some other organizational structure. The steps listed below are intended to help you organize your thoughts. To make your message clear, the discussion should be kept as short as possible while clearly and fully stating, supporting, explaining, and defending your answers and discussing other important and directly relevant issues. Care must be taken to provide a commentary and not a reiteration of the results. Side issues should not be included, as these tend to obscure the message. No paper is perfect; the key is to help the reader determine what can be positively learned and what is more speculative.

  1. Organize the Discussion from the specific to the general: your findings to the literature, to theory, to practice.
  2. Use the same key terms, the same verb tense (present tense), and the same point of view that you used when posing the questions in the Introduction.
  3. Begin by re-stating the hypothesis you were testing and answering the questions posed in the introduction.
  4. Support the answers with the results. Address all the results relating to the questions, regardless of whether or not the findings were statistically significant.
  5. Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships shown by each major finding/result and put them in perspective. The sequencing of providing this information is important; first state the answer, then the relevant results before citing the work of others. If necessary, point the reader to a figure or table to enhance the “story”.
  6. Support your answers by explaining how your results relate to expectations and to the literature, clearly stating why they are acceptable and how they are consistent or fit in with previously published knowledge on the topic.
  7. Defend your answers, if necessary, by explaining both why your answer is satisfactory and why others are not. Only by giving both sides to the argument can you make your explanation convincing.
  8. Discuss and evaluate conflicting explanations of the results. This is the sign of a good discussion.
  9. Discuss any unexpected findings. When discussing an unexpected finding, begin the paragraph with the finding and then describe it.
  10. Identify potential limitations and weaknesses and comment on the relative importance of these to your interpretation of the results and how they may affect the validity of the findings. When identifying limitations and weaknesses, avoid using an apologetic tone.
  11. Summarize concisely the principal implications of the findings regardless of statistical significance.
  12. Provide recommendations (no more than two) for further research. Do not offer suggestions, which could have been easily addressed within the study, as this shows there has been inadequate examination and interpretation of the data.
  13. Explain how the results and conclusions of this study are important and how they influence our knowledge or understanding of the problem being examined.
  14. Discuss everything, but be concise, brief, and specific in your writing of the Discussion.

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Posted in Journal article, Medical Writing, Review article, Scientific writing, Writing

New article format aims to prevent ‘sloppiness’ in science

The journal Cortex launched an innovation in scientific publishing called a Registered Report. Unlike conventional publishing models, Registered Reports split the review process into two stages. Initially, experimental methods and proposed analyses are pre-registered and reviewed before data are collected. Then, if peer reviews are favorable, we offer authors “in-principle acceptance” of their paper. This guarantees publication of their future results providing that they adhere precisely to their registered protocol. Once their experiment is complete, authors then resubmit their full manuscript for final consideration.

Why should we want to review papers before data collection? The reason is simple: because the editorial process is too easily biased by the appearance of data. Rather than valuing innovative hypotheses or careful procedures, too often we find ourselves applauding impressive results or being bored by non-significant effects. For most journals, issues such as statistical power and technical rigor are outshone by novelty and originality of findings.

By venerating findings that are eye-catching, we incentivize the outcome of science over the process itself, forcing aside other vital issues. One of these sacrificial lambs is statistical power – the likelihood of detecting a genuine effect in a sample of data. Several studies in neuroscience suffer from insufficient statistical power, so – driven by the need to publish – scientists inevitably mine their under-powered data sets for statistically significant results. Many will p-hack, cherry pick, and even reinvent study hypotheses to ‘predict’ unexpected findings. Such practices cause predictable phenomena in the literature, such as poor repeatability of results, a prevalence of studies that support stated hypotheses, and a preponderance of articles in which obtained p values fall just below the significance threshold. Furthermore, an anonymous survey recently showed that these behaviors are not the actions of a naughty minority – in psychology and neuroscience they are the norm. We ourselves are guilty.

Registered Reports will help minimize these practices by making the outcome of experiments almost irrelevant in reaching editorial decisions. Cortex is the first journal to adopt this approach, but our underlying philosophy is as old as the scientific method itself: If our aim is to advance knowledge then editorial decisions must be based on the strength of the experimental design and the likelihood of a study revealing definitive results – and never on how the results themselves appeared. We know that other journals are watching Cortex to gauge the success of Registered Reports. Will the format be popular with authors? Will peer reviewers be engaged and motivated? Will the published articles be influential? We have good reasons to be optimistic.

In the lead-up to Registered Reports, many scientists have told us that they look forward to letting go of the toxic incentives that drive questionable research practices. And our strict peer review will ensure that our published findings are among the most definitive in cognitive neuroscience.

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Why cranberries prevent urinary tract infections?

For over 100 years, the consumption of cranberry products has been anecdotally associated with prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Scientists have long questioned if this is myth or scientific fact.

Some recent studies have suggested cranberries prevent UTIs by hindering bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. Phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins (PACs) create this hindrance, but the mechanism by which cranberry materials may alter bacterial behavior has not been fully understood until now. A research team from the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University in Montreal is shedding light on the biological mechanisms by which cranberries might impart protective elements against infections.

The researcher spearheaded two studies that add new evidence of cranberries’ effects on UTI-causing bacteria, as well as highlighting the potential for cranberry derivatives to be used to prevent bacterial colonization in medical devices such as catheters. In the first study, published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology, the team report that cranberry powder can inhibit the ability of Proteus mirabilis to swarm on agar plates and swim within the agar. P. mirabilis is a bacterium frequently implicated in complicated UTIs. The team’s experiments also reveal increasing concentrations of cranberry powder reduce the production of urease by the bacteria. Urease is an enzyme that contributes to the virulence of infections.


Figure-1 : Few cranberries

The results of this study build upon previous work by the same McGill lab. The previous study showed cranberry materials hinder movement of other bacteria involved in UTIs. The lab performed a genome-wide analysis of a uropathogenic E. coli, which revealed that expression of the gene that encodes for the bacteria’s flagellar filament was decreased in the presence of cranberry PACs. These findings have significant implications because bacterial movement is a key mechanism for the spread of infection, as infectious bacteria literally swim to disseminate in the urinary tract and to escape the host immune response.

While the effects of cranberry in living organisms remain subject to further study, our findings highlight the role that cranberry consumption might play in the prevention of chronic infections, the researcher said. More than 150 million cases of UTI are reported globally each year, and antibiotic treatment remains the standard approach for managing these infections. The current rise of bacterial resistance to antibiotics underscores the importance of developing another approach.

The findings of this study reveal cranberry-enriched silicone substrates impaired the spread of P. mirabilis. These results point to potential use for cranberry derivatives to hinder the spread of germs in implantable medical devices such as catheters, which are frequently implicated in UTIs.

“Based on the demonstrated bioactivity of cranberry, its use in catheters and other medical devices could someday yield considerable benefits to patient health,” the researcher said.

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Posted in Review article, Scientific editing

Offender in neurodegenerative diseases can benefit normal cells

The propensity of proteins to stick together in large clumps — termed “protein aggregation” — is the culprit behind a variety of conditions including Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and mad cow diseases. With this notoriety, protein aggregation is considered to be a bad accident of nature that happens when protein structure is mismanaged.

But new research published online in Developmental Cell, shows that, when kept in balance, protein aggregation has beneficial functions that allow cells to organize themselves in both time and space. The findings will be valuable as researchers design treatments for diseases that involve this process.

The researcher said: “They discovered that protein aggregation is a way cells can create spatial patterns in molecules called transcripts, which are the intermediaries between the DNA and proteins. Positioning transcripts in specific places allows the cells to control where the encoded proteins are made and can influence the localization and function of proteins. This work redeems or elevates protein aggregation as not simply a terminal or negative function, but opens it up for examination as a mechanism exploited by cells for diverse purposes.”

Key to this process is a repetitive stretch of a protein building block called glutamine, which is known to serve as a glue for protein aggregates in disease. Through studies in yeast, the research team found that this repetitive stretch of glutamine is also used to cluster proteins for a normal cellular process, namely the regulation of a cell’s division cycle. They note that many other proteins that are not associated with disease have similar glutamine stretches in their sequences. “They hypothesize that many cell functions may be spatially organized by taking advantage of these repetitive glutamine tracts that are surprisingly common in many types of proteins.”

As more examples of useful protein aggregation are identified, it should become clear how aggregates are regulated so that they do not reach toxic levels associated with diseases. “Understanding how this ‘sweet spot’ of aggregation is achieved will be useful for understanding pathways that are misregulated in established protein-aggregation disorders,” researcher added. Also, as therapies are developed to treat protein-aggregation-based pathologies, it will be critical to consider that there may be many useful aggregates that should not be destroyed in the process of treating disease-causing aggregates.

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Posted in Journal article, Scientific editing, Scientific writing

Bad night’s sleep? The moon might be to blame

A report in Current Biology offers scientific evidence of the moon’s effect on sleep

Many people complain about poor sleep around the full moon, and now a report just published in Current Biology, offers some of the first convincing scientific evidence to suggest that this really is true. The findings add to evidence that humans — despite the comforts of our civilized world — still respond to the geophysical rhythms of the moon, driven by a circalunar clock.

The researchers say “The lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not ‘see’ the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase“.

In the new study, the researchers studied 33 volunteers in two age groups in the lab while they slept. Their brain patterns were monitored while sleeping, along with eye movements and hormone secretions. The data show that around the full moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30 percent. People also took five minutes longer to fall asleep, and they slept for twenty minutes less time overall. Study participants felt as though their sleep was poorer when the moon was full, and they showed diminished levels of melatonin, a hormone known to regulate sleep and wake cycles.


“This is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues,” the researchers said.

The researchers added that this circalunar rhythm might be a relic from a past in which the moon could have synchronized human behaviors for reproductive or other purposes, much as it does in other animals. Today, the moon’s hold over us is usually masked by the influence of electrical lighting and other aspects of modern life.

The researchers say it would be interesting to look more deeply into the anatomical location of the circalunar clock and its molecular and neuronal underpinnings. And, they say, it could turn out that the moon has power over other aspects of our behavior as well, such as our cognitive performance and our moods.

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Posted in Case report, Journal article

Can the law improve diabetes prevention and control?

New cases of diabetes continue to increase as does the health burden for those with diabetes. Law is a critical tool for health improvement, yet assessments reported in a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicate that federal, state, and local laws give only partial support to guidelines and evidence-based interventions relevant to diabetes prevention and control. The authors explore the role that law can play in serving as an effective health tool.

In 2010, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly 26 million people in America have the disease and about a quarter of them don’t even know it. If current trends continue, 30 percent of the US population may experience diabetes by 2050. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include limited access to nutritious food, limited opportunity for physical activity, socioeconomic conditions, and genetic disposition. While many well-founded guidelines and recommendations for diabetes intervention exist, the incidence and prevalence of diabetes continues to escalate. This is attributable, in part, to low adoption of evidence-based interventions for diabetes prevention and control. Laws, including statutes, ordinances, and government agency rules and regulations can support interventions to prevent and control disease in various ways. Laws can help shape environments to reduce exposure to some type 2 diabetes risk factors and encourage preventive behaviors, and laws can authorize or require provision of prevention-oriented information designed to change the behaviors and cultural norms that affect risk.

The team evaluated existing guidelines, recommendations, and standards from 12 public health and medical organizations. They uncovered 47 guidelines in total: 20 for diabetes control and 27 for type 2 diabetes risk reduction and prevention. The team then determined the extent to which federal and state laws supported these guidelines. Investigators analyzed the laws further to determine whether they contained provisions that require, incentivize, or encourage healthcare providers, insurers, employers, schools, child care centers, restaurants, government agencies, and others, to take action consistent with a given guideline.Investigators concluded that:

  • Implementation of guidelines for evidence-based interventions for diabetes prevention and control is incomplete
  • Many opportunities exist for exploring uses of law to improve adoption

The team suggested six specific actions and considerations to improve the use of law as a way to prevent and control diabetes:

  • Adopted laws should meet certain criteria, including demonstrated effectiveness, feasibility of practical implementation, and respect for individual liberties.
  • Existing laws, including laws related to land use and building design, transportation systems, education, food production, and advertising, should be evaluated for their impact on diabetes risk reduction, prevention, and control.
  • Laws that have been proposed but not yet adopted also can be assessed for their potential to improve diabetes prevention and control.
  • Laws can be explored that address risk factors common to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, and that address the interaction between diabetes and certain infectious diseases.
  • Organizations that establish guidelines for diabetes prevention and control should explore developing guidelines specifically for relevant law-based interventions.
  • As the Affordable Care Act expands insurance for people with diabetes or at risk of diabetes, the impact of such guidelines should be assessed and used to shape supportive policies, as appropriate.

Laws that are demonstrated to be effective, designed to support proven public health and clinical interventions, and well implemented can give crucial support to strategies that address public health priorities and to wider adoption of evidence-based guidelines. Law is a key tool for scaling and sustaining effective interventions at the national level. Public health practitioners and policymakers nationally can intensify their exploration and evidence-based application of law to help slow and potentially reverse the accelerating threat posed by the diabetes epidemic.

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Posted in Editing, Journal article, Review article, Scientific editing

Shielding Good Science: Upholding Publishing Ethics

If a plagiarist plagiarizes from an author who herself/himself has plagiarized, do we call it a wash and go for a beer? Does this sounds familiar?  Chances are, no. Does this kind of cut-and-paste happen in research publishing today? Sadly, yes.  According to Science (Vol. 324, May 22, 2009), an estimated 200,000 of 17 million articles in the Medline database may have been duplicates or plagiarized. One percent may seem like a relatively small incidence.  But the sheer number is disturbing.

Plagiarism indeed remains the most prevailing kind of scientific misconduct.  While the vast majority of researchers do behave absolutely correctly and appropriately, Some reputed journals has dealt with a myriad of cases of authors copying a substantial portion of another’s work without acknowledgment, misappropriation of data, text or images, and recycling content. Retraction Watch is replete with cases from across the globe.

Aside from the actual number and rates of proven cases, editors, publishers and the media have a nagging perception that plagiarism is rampant. Perception matters; it’s driven by an element of truth and undermines confidence. Ongoing high-profile cases of plagiarism in respected print and broadcast media – including science- and medicine-related stories – only fuels the ire.

Beyond plagiarism, other ethical breaches in publication remain high enough to sustain the level of article retractions and withdrawals year over year, we’ve found.  Cases we’ve seen include duplicate submission or publication.  Authorship disputes.  Fabricating or falsifying data.  Not to mention fraudulent research, limited peer review, self-citation or “guest/ghost” authorship (including or omitting the names of authors in a way that misrepresents their actual authorship).

Clear benefits of ethical publishing

Most scientists know why ethics in publishing are so critical to their work, but the reasons are worth emphasizing:

  1. It ensures scientific progress: Truth is the foundation of science and the progress of ideas. The scientific community thrives only when each participant publishes with integrity.
  2. It protects life and the planet: Publishing ethically ensures that we have trusted information on which to build future therapies, technologies, and policies. Published work based on fraudulent data can form inappropriate basis for follow up studies leading to waste of resources and harmful effects to patients, communities, or habitats.
  3. It promotes ethical behavior: Doing the right thing sets an example and reinforces our responsibility to our peers and society at large (who generally pay for our work). Believing our actions won’t make a difference or are above the law can lead those who don’t know better into believing the same.
  4. It’s good for one’s reputation: There’s nothing like getting published and being able to accept credit and accolades for a job well done. A published paper is a permanent record of a researcher’s work. Running afoul threatens to relegate a scientist to the minority that ends up with a retracted or withdrawn paper and a tarnished reputation.
  5. It’s the only way: A good reputation and acting with integrity open the door to opportunity. A researcher’s work represents not only that person, but the research institution, the funding body, and other researchers.

Certainly, no honorable, right-minded scientist needs to be lectured about ethics – individuals of reasonable sense and moral fiber recognize that breaches are not only wrong, but also highly risky.  We’re all familiar with stories of work wasted, reputations ruined, careers ended, institutions embarrassed, public trust in scientific and medical research squandered, and even lives and health potentially jeopardized when shoddy science results. And when stories of brilliant scientists who succumbed to ethical errors go viral on the internet, it fuels skepticism among non-scientists and policymakers, threatening critical public investment in research. Everyone loses. Science and medicine are set back.

Why ethics go awry

Cynics may blame slipshod ethics solely on bad faith, laziness, greed or arrogance.  A more generous view is that well-meaning people sometimes go awry under a myriad of pressures today, including competition for funding, advancement or tenure … the relentless force of “publish or perish” … the demand to demonstrate return on investment … or the lure of pharmaceutical/medical industry support that requires productive results.

But a more innocent culprit is sometimes at play: “I didn’t know it was wrong.”

It’s true: Some well-meaning scientists – especially the fresh crop of emerging researchers with little experience or historical knowledge – may not realize or understand the modern standards and requirements – the “rules of the road.” Or the gray areas between right and wrong are unclear to them.  Or as research continues to go global, cultural norms may vary.  I know of one instance where a researcher lifted material but believed that since he had changed the first line of every paragraph, it wasn’t plagiarism. (Yes)

Then there’s a fairly recent phenomenon: “The internet made me do it.”  With the internet offering seemingly infinite content, does everyone know what is fair game for use without attribution?  In another case I’ve heard about, the individual thought it was ok to copy text from the web because it had no copyright notice.  Another thought that the public site of a major newspaper was fair game – only the paid site required attribution. (Wrong)

Finally, there’s the challenge of ensuring that standards and guidelines are clear enough to prevent honest, objective researchers from publishing conclusions that are distorted by conflicts of interest. All in all, how many honorable research scientists are tempted – or tripped up – because they did not know the terrain or see the landmines?

Today’s ethical conundrums lead to this conclusion: Education is essential.  Ensuring everyone understands the rules of the road might not eradicate ethics violations, and some retractions and withdrawals do involve outright fraud.  But many more may be due to the need for broad, clear understanding of the standards and guidelines to help well-meaning scientists avoid crossing the line and raising complaints.  Clarity will also prevent those with slippery ethics from pretending they didn’t know any better, and even mitigate the impulse to use the rules as a weapon, e.g., filing frivolous ethics complaints, as retribution, or due to misunderstandings.

By the way,  I want to stress that the ethical issues affecting the scientific integrity of journals for the most part are not a legal matter – they’re primarily a matter of science.  Lawyers can provide support if needed, including templates to help respond to ethical questions and potential breaches in the most appropriate way. And editors have to decide how to address an ethics matter or claim.  But often it has to be the scientific community that takes action and makes decisions as to whether a breach has occurred.  For example, an allegation of research fraud is best investigated – and sometimes can only be investigated – by the institution, not the journal editor. Editors often get stuck in the middle of a he said/she said dispute and often lack the ability to investigate what has gone on inside an institution.

One thing publishers can do to promote integrity is by ensuring those submitting articles know the standards and guidelines. We all want what we publish to be pristine.  And as publishers, we also have the ability – and perhaps the responsibility – to promote the highest standards throughout the world of research publications.


It’s a shame when scientists decide to cut ethical corners. It’s a tragedy when scientists run afoul by accident, inadvertence or lack of knowledge. Not just for the harm it does to them, their peers, their institutions, their work and science at large – but also because the harm could have been avoided.  Everyone should know the rules of the road – for themselves, their careers, colleagues, and institutions, and most of all for the research and knowledge that research science advances.

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Posted in Case report, Journal article, Review article, Scientific editing, Scientific writing

How much coffee is healthy? It depends on your age.

Study shows drinking more than 4 cups a day may be bad for people under 55

Nearly 400 million cups of coffee are consumed every day in America. Drinking large amounts of coffee may be bad for under-55s, according to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. A study of more than 40,000 individuals found a statistically significant 21% increased mortality in those drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week and death from all causes, with a greater than 50% increased mortality risk in both men and women younger than 55 years of age. Investigators warn that younger people in particular may need to avoid heavy coffee consumption. No adverse effects were found in heavy coffee drinkers aged over 55. According to the latest National Coffee Drinking Study from the National Coffee Association, more than 60% of American adults drink coffee every day, consuming on average just over three cups a day.

Coffee has long been suspected to contribute to a variety of chronic health conditions, although earlier studies on coffee consumption in relation to deaths from all causes and deaths from coronary heart disease are limited, and the results are often controversial. A multicenter research team investigated the effect of coffee consumption on death from all causes and deaths from cardiovascular disease in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) cohort, with an average follow-up period of 16 years and a relatively large sample size of over 40,000 men and women.

Between 1979 and 1998, nearly 45,000 individuals aged between 20 and 87 years old participated and returned a medical history questionnaire assessing lifestyle habits (including coffee consumption) and personal and family medical history. The investigators examined a total of 43,727 participants (33,900 men and 9,827 women) in their final analysis. During the 17-year median follow-up period there were 2,512 deaths (men: 87.5%; women: 12.5%), 32% of these caused by cardiovascular disease.

Those who consumed higher amounts of coffee (both men and women) were more likely to smoke and had lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. All participants were followed from the baseline examination to date of death or until December 31, 2003. Deaths from all causes and deaths from cardiovascular disease were identified through the National Death Index or by accessing death certificates.

The study

Younger men had a trend towards higher mortality even at lower consumption, but this became significant at about 28 cups per week where there was a 56% increase in mortality from all causes. Younger women who consumed more than 28 cups of coffee per week also had a greater than 2-fold higher risk of all-cause mortality than those who did not drink coffee.

Senior investigator Steven H. Blair, PED, of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, emphasizes that:

“Significantly, the results did not demonstrate any association between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality among older men and women. It is also important to note that none of the doses of coffee in either men or women whether younger or older had any significant effects on cardiovascular mortality.”

Coffee is a complex mixture of chemicals consisting of thousands of components. Recent research has found that coffee is one of the major sources of antioxidants in the diet and has potential beneficial effects on inflammation and cognitive function. However, it is also well-known that coffee has potential adverse effects because of caffeine’s potential to stimulate the release of epinephrine, inhibit insulin activity, and increase blood pressure and levels of homocysteine.

Leading expert Carl J. Lavie, MD, of the Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans, and a co-author of this study, explains that:

“There continues to be considerable debate about the health effects of caffeine, and coffee specifically, with some reports suggesting toxicity and some even suggesting beneficial effects.”

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Posted in Case report, Medical Writing, Review article, Scientific editing, Scientific writing
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Top 8 tips help you to turn your PhD thesis into an article - Many first-time authors use the research... tmblr.co/ZBlQct2bbXqgK

About 4 years ago from editEon's Twitter via Tumblr

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