links 2/20/13

Jane Friedman: How to get your book published

Business Insider: Privacy settings for Facebook Graph Search

The Cult of Done Manifesto

In Defense of Parenthood: Children Are Associated With More Joy Than Misery (Nelson et al., 2013, PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

How to Make a Young Child Smarter: Evidence From the Database of Raising Intelligence (Protzko et al., 2013, PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

Moving Forward With fMRI Data (Rugg & Thompson-Schill, 2013, CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

The Seductive Allure of “Seductive Allure” (Farah & Hook, 2013, CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

The APS journal articles linked above are probably paywalled, sorry.

Between the special issue on how fMRI can inform cognitive theories, and the recent special issue on replication, CDIPS is killing it lately. I really want to read both from cover to cover, but I have to stick with the highlights for now. They also had a recent special issue on political bias in social psychology with a couple of good articles by Princeton’s Debbie Prentice and Penn’s Philip Tetlock; that’s not my field, so the priority is even lower, but on the strength of those article’s it’s probably worth reading through as well. Also to read, hopefully in the near future, my old officemate Martin Monti’s 2011 review of the GLM approach to fMRI…


Every time I come back from Taipei, I resolve to study up on my Chinese. In an effort to actually roll that ball a little this time, I signed up for yet another account on my friend Greg’s startup, Memrise, a few days ago. I’m plugging it now because the service has improved to the point that I think I might use it enough to make some real progress. Practice sessions are low-stress and bite-sized enough to do as a break at work in lieu of, e.g., checking Facebook, and they’re online, which means I don’t have to drag my Rosetta Stone CD to work or buy a CD drive for my laptop. I think they’ve bought into the Farmville game just enough to keep users motivated—the governing metaphor for your knowledge is now a “greenhouse,” where you sprout seedlings (e.g. recently learned meanings of Chinese characters), and a “garden” where you maintain them after they’ve sprouted (i.e. you’ve practiced them enough to solidify them somewhat in your brain). You’re informed when a piece of knowledge is solid enough to be moved to the garden, and if the site’s practice schedule determines that you aren’t practicing an item in a way that best solidifies it, you’re warned that it’s “wilting.” There is a social aspect to the site, which I haven’t used yet.

I’m also appreciating some aspects of the Chinese relative to the year I took at Princeton. There was a lot that was good about the Princeton method, but the one thing it left me weak in despite copious practice was characters. Princeton’s approach, like most language courses, starts out training you in phrases you’d be likely to speak, e.g., “I am an American,” the first five characters I learned in Chinese 101 at Princeton. Memrise’s approach to Chinese seems a bit weird by contrast because you’re learning things like “fetus” and “ladle” and “field,” all of which seem entirely crackers unlikely to arise in casual conversation. But those characters form the roots of more complex characters that go into words like “dumpling” and “old” and “fish”—the sorts of things you might be likely to read on signs or menus. And it is a lot easier to remember “earth + ladle = old” than it is to remember the character holistically. Your eventual goal is holistic memory, of course, but in the near term what you want is just to be able to recognize the characters, and being able to combine them out of their elements this way is incredibly useful even when the combination doesn’t make sense (and it rarely does). In fact, it’s so useful that I understand why people who really get it can delude themselves into thinking it does make sense.

Anyway, I don’t know to what extent the cognitive science behind the mnemonics and practice schedule represents an advance on, say, Rosetta Stone, but Greg assures me it’s a lot, and I think the motivational aspect is likely to be even more powerful. When I’m goofing off, the effort of digging out my Rosetta Stone CD and special headset and getting everything spun up is a big obstacle. Keeping a Memrise tab open in my browser is easy enough that I’ll click over to water my cute little knowledge garden in lieu of a Facebook break.

I definitely would not counsel anyone to rely on Memrise alone for Chinese pedagogy, or probably any other language pedagogy; I think grammar requires a different approach. But I think the Memrise approach is going to be very useful and powerful for vocabulary, which is an immense hurdle especially in character-based languages. For the first time in a while, I’m a little bit optimistic that I might pay my next visit to Taiwan as a semi-literate. That’s a sufficiently amazing prospect that I’m prepared to be preemptively grateful for it.

speaking of h2o++

It occurs to me, on this 66-degree evening at the end of October, that if the earth is really going to get noticeably warmer, the smart money should be on vacation properties in places that aren’t now vacation spots. You know, building summer houses on the Greenland coast — or maybe a mile or so in, depending on elevation. The Hoboken Marina. Something. There are pretty good projections about what’s going to happen if global temperature rises x degrees, right? We should be looking to see where oil company executives are building bungalows.

tnc nails it once more

From Ta-Nehisi Coates, Penn State and the nationalist impulse”:

Throughout Sandusky’s trial, I’ve thought back to the crowds of students angrily defending Joe Paterno. It’s not that those students were particularly monstrous — on the contrary, it is the normalcy of their behavior, the humanity of it, that amazes. As others have said there’s [a] line between Penn State, the Catholic Church’s scandals, and the scandals among the ultra-orthodox Jews out in Brooklyn. (I hope I phrased all of that right.)

What you see is the human impulse to squelch the rights of individuals for the greater glory of a nation. We can see that even here in America, looking at civil liberties in the post-9/11 era. But in the Sandusky trial it’s boiled down in the worst possible way. The impulse is to be horrified by people defending Penn State’s handling of this, because, at the end of the day, it’s only football. But when football becomes your identity, when football raises buildings on your campus, when you so much relate to the players on the field that their affairs absorb your weekends, then it’s no longer “just football.” You take on aspects of the religious and the national.

As an academic, I naturally have a sensitivity for matters relating to college athletics, and I have predictable biases. At some point we’re going to have to come to terms with how our universities do business — and in this sense big sports are continuous with big research, lucrative pursuits at best orthogonal to what everyone knows is the core mission of universities, the education of students.

That elision conceals a lot of important differences, of course. But I think it’s an interesting insight, and new for me, so I’m going to let it stand for now.

graph theory, part deux

At risk of turning this blog into “the fMRI graph theory analysis papers” (which would probably attract more readers) here are a couple of better renderings and/or conceptions of the default-mode and task-positive networks. I’ve included only edges that represent significant correlations across subjects — the first as quantified by t-test on Fisher-transformed correlations, the second as quantified by Wilcoxon rank-sum test on raw correlations. I’ve also used a layout scheme that tries to capture the proximity between nodes.



The parametric and nonparametric edge definitions yield pretty much exactly the same organization, with DMN and task-positive networks highly intraconnected (is that a word?) but sparsely interconnected. Both approaches also capture an isolated subnetwork in bilateral parahippocampal cortex and accurately ostracize the cerebellar ROI, which isn’t actually part of the DMN or task-positive networks — it was supposed to be posterior cingulate,but I messed it up.

Another slightly subtler feature captured by both approaches is the particular inter-network edges, with positive connectivity between the DMN superior frontal ROIs (R/LSF) and task-positive dorsolateral PFC (R/LDLP) on the same side, and between the DMN “parietal” ROIs and task-positive ipsilateral loci in the intraparietal sulcus. Edited after I realized I posted the same image twice: The parietal connectivity is consistent across correlation metrics but the prefrontal connectivity isn’t. It looks like there’s some symmetry in the medial prefrontal and inferotemporal connectivity within the DMN as well; the medial prefrontal connectivity is also symmetric in the parametric graph but not so much in the nonparametric graph.

Still need to work on rendering edge weights. But these graphs are much nicer.

graph theory raises its ugly head

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working not quite as hard as I should have on a graph-theoretic analysis of some resting-state fMRI data. Thanks to Brian Avants and ANTS, I’ve generated the following average connectome for default-mode and task-positive networks:

The key thing here is that connections between nodes of the same color are overwhelmingly red (positive correlations, significant across subjects) and connections between nodes of different colors are overwhelmingly blue (negative correlations). So the default-mode network and the task-positive network are correlated with themselves and anticorrelated with one another. This is not a shocking result (see link), but it’s fun to verify in my own data with new technology. There’s something attractive about a graph theory approach to functional connectivity that more sophisticated super-data-driven approaches like ICA just don’t have — maybe because people actually have some vague sense of how to think about and analyze graphs. (For “people,” you can probably substitute “Matt” with no particular loss of accuracy.)

Next: nonparametric approaches to edge analysis, visualization tweaks, and (most importantly) between-groups analysis of the effects of electrical brain stimulation on the connectome…