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Carphology by A Fo Ben
  1. A Fo Ben

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Lymphomaniac

It is sobering to think that in 2015 we can still receive neuroanatomical revelations. Did you know that we have functional lymphatic vessels lining our dural sinuses? These have the hallmarks of a lymphatic system, long thought to be missing in the central nervous system. These vessels also provide a novel route for cerebrospinal fluid drainage. As well necessitating that we rewrite a few undergraduate acetates, it does make you ponder about the potential implications for inflammatory and degenerative disorders of the brain. Is it time to revisit the dogma of the immune privilege of the brain?

Nature 2015;523:337–41

Newspeak

We may all be guilty at times of duckspeak. This is the neologism from George Orwell's 1984 meaning literally to quack like a duck, or to speak without thinking. Some words’ etymology provoke undue ire, such as the Greek–Latin hybrid ‘television’. Some phrases lose meaning and become empty jargon. Lazy and careless use of language can obfuscate or hinder critical analysis. Orwell, in his essay Politics and the English Language, postulated that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”. It is in this vein that Lilienfeld and colleagues suggest 50 commonly used words from psychiatry that ought to be confined to ‘oldspeak’ (the words of the past). The collection includes terms that are inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous and readily confused. A Fo Ben wonders which words PN readers would send to room 101.

Front Psychol 2015;6:1100

Who's your daddy?

Assumed wisdom is worryingly seductive, particularly if it comes from a respected source. The panel show ‘QI’ has made a virtue of this fact, and we feel we have another ‘truth’ to unravel. A Fo Ben has heard on numerous occasions that ‘detailed genetic analysis shows a non-paternity rate of a third’. It is therefore with interest that a study of 1200 conceptions over 300 years in the Afrikaner population in South Africa reveals an actual cuckholdry rate of just under 1%. Or is this population the outlier, and they are resolutely faithful?

Heredity 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/hdy.2015.36

Paws for thought

There is a knack to naming a syndrome. If you have a snappy surname—use it; the balinitis of Zoon by any other name would smell as sweet? Failing that, plunder from literature, mythology or the great artists, such as William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. ‘Tom and Jerry syndrome’ was mooted as a monicker for reflex audiogenic seizures in geriatric cats. Thirty of the 96 cats were Birmans, myoclonic seizures were common and levetiracetam was the most effective drug.

J Feline Med Surg 2015. pii: 10986 12X15582080

Sleeping beauties

An unexpected hit record or film lauded by ‘word of mouth’ becomes a cult classic; their popularity builds outside of the spotlight. This phenomenon occurs in scientific papers too—the so-called ‘sleeping beauty’. A study of 22 million scientific papers published across the natural and social sciences over more than a century showed that sleeping beauties are not restricted to fairytales. A paper overlooked at the time of publication can blossom into a citation classic. Although rare in neuroscience, you may have cited one if writing about a Stroop test or using a Kaplan–Meier estimate. So remember if your recent publication remains unloved, dormant and uncited; you are just ahead of your time.

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2015;112:7426–31

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