Letters to the Editor: Drugs, Drugs, Drugs, Black Friday

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Nov 27 2015, 8:41pm

Image: Wikimedia Commons

My worst ever drug experience took place on Thanksgiving night seven or eight years ago following an intensely wholesome day at my best friend's parents house in Portland, Oregon. MDMA's therapeutic potential is huge, but for anxiety and panic disorders, it's just another upper. More fuel for the fire, in other words.

For me it was like gasoline on the fire, and I wound up spending most of the night curled up in the wet parking lot of a bar entirely convinced that I was dying. Everyone else had a great time. I was happy enough to not be dead.

So, this week's Motherboard really spoke to me. Our November theme week, Lit Up, was all about drugs, chemical and otherwise, from the frontlines of MDMA research to Jason Koebler's "highly scientific" exploration of drug use and typing speed to meditation on death row. We were also sure to hit Black Friday along the way, and plenty more.

You, our loyal readers, were kind of enough to share your thoughts, for which we are, as always, immensely thankful.

Re: The Best Drug for Quitting Smoking Can't Shake Its Suicide Stigma


I'm sure you will get many of these after people who took the drug read the article. I'll keep my experience brief.

I took chantix twice for 4 weeks each time(I think, it was years ago) Both times I was able to eliminate nicotine cravings within the first few days. Both times I also apparently started exhibiting increased aggression around week 2 and by week 4 I started to be able to recognize that something wasn't right and took myself off the medication.

I think it might tend to bring out certain aspects of our personality that we are able to maintain as regular members of society. Almost in the same way alcohol removes social inhibitions. You dont really notice its happening but those around you see clear signs.

I never acted out against anyone but I was quick to anger and I would take aggressive postures and attitudes towards people in public who i felt wronged me in some way. It could be anything from a perceived bad look to walking to slowly it didn't matter I was told I was just ready to fight verbally and physically with anyone I didn't know about anything. The people I cared about I was still able to maintain normal composure.

It only took a couple of days of no chantix for me to return to normal but I also started smoking again. I believe this is a great drug that can do a lot of good for a lot of people but you need to inform those around you to notify you if you start acting different in any way no matter how slight as it could be a warning sign you might now he capable of doing something you otherwise wouldn't.


Re: Pouring Cold Water into Your Left Ear Is a Temporary Cure for Insanity

The article on CVS raises a number of interesting points.

However, your claim that "Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, the Neil Armstrong of neuroscience, was one of the first researchers to use CVS with anosognosia" is not accurate.

Contrary to the impression that has propagated itself over and over on the internet V.S.Rmachandran has never worked with patients in a clinical setting. He does not hold an M.D. and he has never been licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. He has never had any "patients".

If you had read his paper (1995) carefully you would have noticed that he claims to have administered CVS to only one "patient". It is difficult to know what this was meant to convey, given the fact that he did not have patients, as such.

During the past 15 years Ramachandran has provided fantastic lines of speculation about various topics in neuroscience. What he has not done is back up his speculation with credible research. He is a professor of psychology at UC San Diego, not a doctor or neurologist. Most neuroscientists regard his ideas with extreme skepticism.

It is worth noting that V.S. Ramachandran suffers from advanced Parkinson's. Over the past few years his memory has suffered as a result. He does not seem to be able to distinguish between research he actually did and research he read about.

If you want to report on a truly groundbreaking event in Ramachandran's career as a psych

Hi Austin,

Thanks so much for your letter. It is absolutely true that VS Ramachandran is not an MD, rather, he has a PhD in visual perception from Cambridge University and is a professor of psychology and neuroscience. In that sense, it is also true that the patient he refers to inAnosognosia in Parietal Lobe Syndrome is nothis patient, but a stroke patient he used CVS on. I think there are two issues you're getting at here: the use of the term "patient" and the authority of Ramachandran's work.

In terms of the word "patient", I agree it's confusing. It implies that person with anosognosia who received CVS was Ramachandran's patient rather than a patient of the hospital where Ramachandran was conducting his research. However, patient was the term used in the article and therefore the term I used when reporting on the article.

In terms of the authority of Ramachandran's work, it is also true that the research presented in the aforementioned article was performed on just one participant as a case study. If this was a standalone case study published in a small, non-peer reviewed with little follow-up from the scientific community, I probably wouldn't regard it as authoritative. However, this article was published in a peer-reviewed journal, it's been cited over 250 times, and it's been supported by other studies. In regard to Ramachandran's fantastic speculation, I agree with you. Ramachandran has published a number of articles in Medical Hypotheses, a journal that simply published theoretical articles. It's also likely that a lot of neuroscientists regard some of his ideas with skepticism, and they absolutely should, since many of them, particularly the Medical Hypotheses ones, are simply hypotheses. But isn't that the whole point of having a theoretical journal? To discuss and disprove ideas?

I've read a lot about Ramachandran's Lisa Montgomery testimony. It's… interesting. I honestly don't know what to think when it comes to it and would need to do more research before having an informed opinion on it.

In terms of the timeline of Ramachandran's work, he really was one of the first (not the first, but one of the first) researchers to use CVS, having published his paper in 1995. Whether or not you regard him as the Neil Armstrong of neuroscientists is totally up to you :).

Thanks again for your letter, and thanks for reading.


Martha Stortz

Re: A Secretive Air Cargo Operation Is Running in Ohio, and Signs Point to Amazon

Patricia Evans via letters@motherboard.tv:

Being from wilmington I can assure you that everyone has been told (knows) it is amazon. We have numerous friend who have been hired (high up) and work for Amazon at the wilmington air park. Thanks for the article. Nicely written!

Re: Gaze Deeply Into the Beautiful Cosmic Barf of Centaurus A

Sean Kelly via letters@motherboard.tv:

You state that "Centaurus A is our closest galactic neighbor at only 11 million light-years away."

Centaurus A is not our closest galactic neighbor. It isn't even in the Local Group of galaxies. What awful clickbait.

Fair point (though you'd had to have clicked already to get to the line in question, no?). Centaurus A is not our closest galactic neighbor, but is rather our closest active galactic neighbor. The post has been updated.

Thanks for reading,

Michael Byrne

Re: How Does Drug Use Affect Typing Speed? A Highly Scientific Investigation

If you want a 'real' critique, here are some things that might appear in a peer review:

- Did not cite relevant literature. There is extensive literature on state-dependent learning. One might expect, if the subject practiced drunk-typing a lot, they would not be as impaired

- Subject was aware of hypotheses. A double-blind method with sham/placebo control conditions would be better

- Use of within-subject design was probably acceptable, but a stronger argument would be possible if each condition was tested by a different subject group.

- Failure to counterbalance order by condition in within-subject design. There are often learning, fatigue, and interaction effects that might occur in the current design, so the order should be counterbalanced across participants. A latin-square design should be acceptable.

- Small sample size. N=1 for a study like this is too small to make strong inferences about a population.

- Non-representative sample. I surmise participants were WIERD (white educated industrialized rich democratic; see many citations, like http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/05/weird.aspx). Results may only apply to similar demographic, which in non-representative of a world population.

- Lack of statistical testing.

- Failure to control for multiple comparisons. With 5 conditions, this is 10 comparisons, and you might expect one to come out significant by chance. Correction via bonferroni or Tukey post-hoc tests would be appropriate.

I could probably go on, but you get the picture. And these are all things that I've seen or read in reviews I've gotten.


Re: The 10 Best Black Friday Deals at Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon

Mike via letters@motherboard.tv:

your 10 best black friday deals article has a bunch of communism discussion that isn't explained

Every year, blogs rush to aggregate the best Black Friday deals. There are so many other places doing it, we didn't think it would add that much for us to make our own list. But we didn't want to ignore the day altogether, because it is one of the biggest days for actually acquiring the tech we constantly use.

We know that lots of people search for Black Friday deals on Google and so the idea was to use a straightlaced headline that Google might think was real, link to products that are real (and deals that are real), and then intersperse those with the full text of The Communist Manifesto. I asked our development team for some tricks on how to get a high Google ranking, and they told me to write an intro that mentions things people commonly search for like NFL game times, pumpkin pie recipes, and the like.

We think it works on a couple levels: The post was a bit of a lighthearted commentary on consumerism and the holiday online content machine and we thought the text was appropriate considering that the editorial staff of VICE Media elected to unionize earlier this year. But at its heart, it was really just a joke. Thanks for reading!

Jason Koebler