The genie is out of the bottle. Part II – more genies, more bottles

16 Jul

Was it any surprise that the journal that published the recent Hewitson stinker did so? Not really. Straight from the opening lines of the Editorial the direction this journals ‘science’ would take was clear:

This issue of Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis is fully devoted to the issues of autism. The idea for this topic came from Professor Dorota Majewska…

Did it indeed? I wonder if this is the same Professor Dorota Majewska who has signed her name at We Support Andy Wakefield? I’m not sure how common this name is but it would be a monumental coincedence if they weren’t one and the same person.

Getting back to the Editorial, we see some familar names from the outliers of scientific credibility – Hitlan, DeSoto, Geier – that give pause to the peer review process this journal makes its papers undertake. Are they aware of how little regard these names and their associated ‘science’ is held in in more prestigious journals and law courts?

The Editor discusses the Hewitson paper thusly:

An alarming finding is reported by Hewitson and coworkers (Ref. 4), showing that, in infant monkeys that were immunized, the amygdala does not show the normal pattern of maturation but is hypertrophied. Although these are only preliminary data, given the well-known role of the amygdala in generation of fear and other negative emotions, they support the possibility that there is a link between early immunization and the etiology of autism

How is it that an Editor and his peer review team missed that which LB/RB’s own Sullivan caught immediately? That according to this ‘alarming’ paper, pieces of the control subjects brains apparently shrank during the course of the experiment. That would certainly be an alarming result – if it were in any way true. How could it be accounted for? Too few animals in the control group or maybe just bad maths. Either way, to describe this paper as alarming might be accurate – but not necessarily for the reason that the Editor obviously feels.

They also seemed to miss Sullivan’s other finding – that two of the subjects just disappeared from the paper. To quote Sullivan:

Weren’t there 4 monkeys in the control group and 12 monkeys in the vaccinated group? What happened to the other 2 of the control subjects?

Shoddy.

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5 Responses to “The genie is out of the bottle. Part II – more genies, more bottles”

  1. Sullivan July 16, 2010 at 19:57 #

    I would love to see the referee reports (if they exist) for these papers.

    I haven’t gone through the other papers, but if they are as bad as the Hewitson paper, none of these should have been published.

  2. W. Kevin Vicklund July 16, 2010 at 20:19 #

    [Also posted at Respectful Insolence]

    An interesting anomaly:

    Look at Figure 2 on page 153 of the study. The top row are PET and MRI scans of one of the non-vaccinated monkeys, while the bottom is of a vaccinated monkey. I noticed several things. First, the activity in the PET decreased everywhere in the unvaccinated monkey, whereas in the vaccinated monkey it seemed to become more focused in the amygdala. But more importantly, I noticed that in the vaccinated monkey, the PET scans are symmetrical, whereas the in the unvaccinated monkey, the left lobe shows more activity, especially in the back. Of course this may be a matter of right/left differentiation. But look at the MRI scans.

    The MRI of the vaccinated monkey is very symmetrical. Not so with the unvaccinated monkey. The back of the right lobe is much smaller than the back of the left lobe. Furthermore, there is a large “hole” on the right side that does not have a match on the left.

    I freely admit that I am not qualified to evaluate PET or MRI scans. But it sure seems plausible that at least one of the two controls the used had significant anomalies in brain structure. If true, this would invalidate the results reported.

  3. brian July 22, 2010 at 03:55 #

    Hewitson certainly screwed up. It’s surprising that she, her coauthors, and the reviewers at the low-impact Polish journal that eventually published the study didn’t bother to perform a simple literature search related to the most important claim in the paper.

    The central point of the paper is clear: the amygdala increases in volume with increasing age in infant primates given vaccines that contain thimerosal; Hewitson claims this is abnormal.

    If she had bothered to look, she would have found:

    (1) the volume of the amygdala increases with age in healthy, (and unvaccinated) infant macaques, just as in the vaccinated macaques [1]
    (2) the volume of the amygdala increases with age in healthy human infants, just as in the vaccinated macaques [2,3]

    Regarding the referee reports: It seems likely that this paper was never seen by a qualified reviewer.

    1. Payne C, Machado CJ, Bliwise NG, Bachevalier J. Maturation of the hippocampal formation and amygdala in Macaca mulatta: A volumetric magnetic resonance imaging study. Hippocampus. 2009 Sep 8.

    2. Mosconi M, Cody-Hazlett H, Poe M, et al. Longitudinal study of amygdala volume and joint attention in 2- to 4-year-old children with autism. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(5):509-516.

    3. Ortiz-Mantilla S, Choe MS, Flax J, et al. Associations between the size of the amygdala in infancy and language abilities during the preschool years in normally developing children. Neuroimage. 2010 Feb 1;49(3):2791-9.

  4. David N. Brown July 22, 2010 at 04:11 #

    Hewitson’s report deserves a LITTLE more consideration. IF her measurements and other figures are valid, then she MAY have come across something of interest: either a new pathology, or (I think more likely) one of the further limits of “harmless” variation.

    This illustrates a recurring problem with anti-vaxxers: When they DO run across a real problem, they manage to obscure and distract from it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - The genie is out of the bottle. Part II – more genies, more bottles « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com - July 16, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev and Catherina Becker, Reasonable Hank. Reasonable Hank said: RT @justthevax: RT @kevleitch Autism Blog – The genie is out of the bottle. Part II – more genies, more bottles « .. http://bit.ly/aTZXw0 [...]

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