Monday, September 13, 2010

Yet another quacky paper in PLoS ONE

It's titled The Brain Effects of Laser Acupuncture in Healthy Individuals: An fMRI Investigation. The findings? Shine a laser pointer on the skin and it lights up on MRI. Shine it on different skin areas and different areas of the brain light up. It works whether you shine the laser on acupuncture points or a control (non-acupuncture) point.

Orac's take is here. He concludes and I agree:

Having read this study, I found it to be a steaming, stinking pile of fetid dingo kidneys, even by the usual low, low, low standards of typical CAM studies. My guess for what happened is this: The authors knew this study didn't meet the standards for a real neuroscience journal. Neither did they want to relegate it to the scientific ghetto of the CAM literature, where editorial standards are so low that they're subterranean and attempts at actual science are intermingled with the purest woo, like homeopathy and reiki. So what to do? Well, PLoS ONE bills itself as a journal where only the science counts, where the reviewers don't make judgments on the import of the science being presented but rather only assure that it is sound, boasting a 60-70% acceptance rate for manuscripts. I can see how PLoS ONE might be a tempting place for a quactitioner to drop off her latest attempt at quackademic medicine. Unfortunately, somehow these latest bits of tooth fairy science on acupuncture belie the scientific rigor that PLoS ONE claims for itself. Seeing these articles in PLoS ONE make me even more certain than I was before that I no longer wish to submit any manuscripts to PLoS ONE.

As I said before, this is particularly ironic since the PloS journals are purported to be so scientifically rigorous and above conflict and all. This is the second quacky article in a short time. It's as if NEJM said “come on in, the water's fine”, so PloS took the plunge.

By the way, I like the new term “quactitioner.”

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