Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Is YouTube making fun of stutterers?

Leys Geddes sent this email around:
Hello, everyone.

As many of you are involved in speaking publicly about stammering, I thought you would be interested to know that recently we complained to You Tube about a number of videos on their site which showed people stammering, or pretending to stammer, which had been classified as Comedy. In response, they said there was no infringement of their codes - so these videos would stay up and would still be described as Comedy.

So we decided to fight back directly and you can now see the result here.

It’s very interesting to note that, over the weekend, the Observer raised a similar issue, in which teachers are calling call for YouTube to ban videos on their site in which children are shown bullying other children.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Anecdote on the pitfalls in research

I havent been posting a lot for the last weeks. I am a bit out of good ideas or the drive to start new ideas! :-)

Here is an anecdote that shows the dangers of accepting every piece of research. I have a excercise bike at home, and it didnt work properly. Sometimes it would just go off, and come back on later. I called the shop and they gave and of course the bike worked!! After they left, it stopped working again! Then it didnt work anymore. I suspected that the bike was fine but that the electric cable had a loose contact that sometimes still worked. So I took the cable to an electronics shop, and asked them to check it. And it worked, so I concluded that it must be the bike. And then it was just standing there for months, as I was just too lazy and stingy to call the shop again. Yesterday, I told my neighbour about my bike, as he is DIY expert in electronics. And it turned out that the cable indeed had a loose contact!!!! We changed the plug and it works perfectly now!!

So what's the lesson? ALWAYS BE SUSPICIOUS OF RESEARCH THAT MIGHT IMPACT YOUR THEORY, AND WAIT FOR 2-3 INDEPENDENT CONFIRMATION. In this case, the third check showed that the cable was a loose contact. I guess the issue was also that it was not always loose but sometimes worked.

Maybe people who stutter have a loose contact that works better at some times than others. And we are misled by some experimental results.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Should placebo be placebo?

I havent been posting for a while. I mentioned the random control trials for Pagaclone to a friend of mine, Gilles (PhD biopsychology), and told him that the trial might not really control for the placebo effect, because Pagaclone is an active compound and does change the brain chemistry. So the patients in the Pagaclone should experience (subtle) changes within themselves, and will know whether they are taking Pagaclone or not, and then they might have a secondary placebo effect: I am taking Pagaclone, so my speech will improve now.

Gilles suggested that the placebo should be a drug similar to Pagaclone, maybe an anti-anxiety drug, because then both groups (the Pagaclone and the control group) will experience a difference, and not know whether they are on Pagaclone or not.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Brainstorming on sub-types

You can group sub-types according to different criteria:
- symptoms (overt, severe, many secondary effects, etc)
- recovered as child (did the person recover as a child or not)
- causes (due to a malfunctioning in the brain processes of speech)
- origin (due to "bad" genetics or neurological incident like infection or accident)
- origin (family history yes or no)
- reaction to treatment
- and more ideas?

Sub-types can be grouped strictly like family history (yes or nor), but others are continuous variables like severity of stuttering. Are there really strict sub-types or are they all just continuous variables?

The number of causal sub-types is the number of intermediate steps to produce continuous speech, because that is the number of times something can go wrong.