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Medicine, Quotage, Reading notes

Saturday evening journal club.

This week I had to document all the public utterances I have made over a five year period for the purposes of auditing research output. The one I am most proud of is this. (And wordpress allows one to embed the video now). Please note I don’t look like this any more. I’m about two stone lighter.

This led me to think about how we measure research output. Many people quite their hirsch number: mine is stubbornly stuck at 20 in google scholar. Hirsch defined this as the number of papers that have been cited that number of times: thus for an h of 20 you have to have at least 20 papers cited that number of times.

Schematic curve of number of citations versus paper number, with papers numbered in order of decreasing citations. The intersection of the 45° line with the curve gives h. The total number of citations is the area under the curve. Assuming the second derivative is nonnegative everywhere, the minimum area is given by the distribution indicated by the dotted line,

He continues:

Furthermore, in reality, of course, not all papers will eventually contribute to h. Some papers with low citations will never contribute to a researcher’s h, especially if written late in the career, when h is already appreciable. As discussed by Redner, most papers earn their citations over a limited period of popularity and then they are no longer cited. Hence, it will be the case that papers that contributed to a researcher’s h early in his or her career will no longer contribute to h later in the individual’s career. Nevertheless, it is of course always true that h cannot decrease with time. The paper or papers that at any given time have exactly h citations are at risk of being eliminated from the individual’s h count as they are superseded by other papers that are being cited at a higher rate. It is also possible that papers “drop out” and then later come back into the h count, as would occur for the kind of papers termed “sleeping beauties”

J. E. Hirsch. An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nov 2005, 102 (46) 16569-16572; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0507655102

This is all very interesting, but it does not allow for variations in productivity. I have had a fairly productive year with publications — but each one of them involves years of work, and may not make that much of a difference. There are projects that are designed to make a more immediate difference, and some are being crowdfunded.

Support the things that you can, that are small, and that are likely to work. The common mental disorders are part of human experience, but the severe end is awful. Hannah Betts misses one of the ugly points; The nastiest mood disorders occur when the rest of live is falling apart: work is tedious, hard and meaningless, you have lost your reliationships, and Taylor Swift is trite. But Betts was driven to think that she was worse than worthless.

As always, the giveaway that this is a real chemical headf*** rather than some passing ennui is that, technically, my life is rather brilliant right now, as it was when I first went on SSRIs about eight years ago. Work is stimulating, I am in a loving relationship and have the world’s most coruscating pals, Taylor Swift’s latest album is seriously good, and the advent of praline Magnums has totally rocked my world.

Yet over the past months — the past few weeks most obviously — everything slowly ground to a halt until I felt detached, underwater, at arm’s length even from my own existence. All the old signs were there: a glassy remoteness, finding pleasure in nothing, loss of appetite while eating crap, ostracising myself from friends, dragging torpor, feelings of absolute incapacity, savage self-loathing and utter, festering shame. (And this was me medicated.)

Still, it didn’t occur to me that the old black dog was back, merely that I was an entirely contemptible individual.

Hannah Betts, The Times

I usually look at the open access Journals some time on Saturday: this week we have been painting while there is a break in the gray rain that has been our winter, and I am finishing with a speculative paper. Toxoplasma gondii has been suggested as a factor in serious mental illness for years, but the data has been equivocal. A French group have reported in BMC Psychiatry. They found an association with T.gondii, generally found in your cat’s litter box (the faeces) and why emptying the litter tray should not be done by pregnant women (disclaimer: my cats go outside for this).

In the present study, we found that levels of IgG and IgG1, were lower among BD as compared to SZ and HC after correcting for confounding factors (tobacco use, age, gender and BMI) and may suggest that the decrease in the total IgG levels in our patients may be due to a significant decrease in the production of IgG1. We also found that IgG2 and IgA were lower in BD compared to HC and that IgG2 were lower in the SZ group as compared to HC but did not remain after corrections for confounding factors. We also found that lowest levels of IgG3 and IgG4 were associated with highest antibodies to T. gondii in BD and SZ as compared to controls. Interestingly, our date could not be explained by a co-infection to viruses such as CMV. Our study, essentially focusing on stable phase of BD and SZ, provide data that differ significantly from published reports.

Nora Hamdani† and others. Immunoglobulin sub-class distribution in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia: potential relationship with latent Toxoplasma Gondii infection.
BMC Psychiatry 2018; 18:239 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1821-9

It might be that the cat you have inside is bad for you. Let your cats be free, and let them predate. You are but their staff.

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