Friday, September 21, 2012

Beating a dead fish: more reasons to correct for multiple comparisons

Last night, the Ignobel prizes rewarded research using an fMRI on a dead salmon as an extreme case of a null effect.  fMRI machines identify over a hundred thousand of voxels (the tiny pieces they divide the brain into), and by chance some voxels show activity even where there isn't activity simply because of the sheer number of opportunities for a false positive: similar to how a broken clock is right twice a day, and if you looked at the clock 100,000 times, you would see several times when it said the correct time.  The researchers had a dead salmon complete a standard task that would be used on live human subjects and showed that --- without correcting for multiple comparisons --- the salmon appeared to be thinking.  With correction for multiple comparisons, the scientists saw no effects.  This research was published in the Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DNC: Planned Parenthood promotes fertility

We all know that Planned Parenthood is in favor of parenthood at the right time. Giving women a place to address every type of reproductive health needs leaves them in better health, so that they are able to have children when it's their time. I found the story of Elizabeth Ann "Libby" Bruce, whose endometriosis was discovered at Planned Parenthood particularly moving, especially her delivery. Planned Parenthood didn't save her life, but it did make new life possible. There's nothing more pro-life than that. It doesn't hurt that her baby was born just 9 weeks ago, on our country's birthday. In Ohio.

The important issue here isn't access to health care, but access to the right health care. We have all known how scary and frustrating it is to feel sick without answers, even where insurance and health care access are assured. It's scary to think that Ms. Bruce might have never found a doctor to treat her condition, and thus found herself unable to have children.

I don't know whether Planned Parenthood is always better than women's other options, but it is important that Planned Parenthood is always an option. Planned Parenthood has saved the fertility of so many other women, but in ways that are sadly less politically palatable. We've come so far that we can have a woman say "endometriosis" in front of a full political convention, but we'll have come even farther when we can speak openly about chlamydia and other sexual health issues.

The Democrats are obviously way ahead on speaking candidly about women's health. Any guesses on how many decades before anyone will ever say the word "endometriosis" at the Republican convention?