25.12.10

A brainSCANr holiday!

Bradley Voytek brainSCANr


This is the first post in what I hope will be the regularly-updated brainSCANr blog. I'm a huge fan of OkCupid's OkTrends, and since we've got a great way of looking across the more than 20 million articles in PubMed, we think we can do some clever things with it.

Because this is the first post, I think it's only right that we link to our home site: brainSCANr.com.

In future posts I'll be explaining the project a bit more, but in this post I wanted to highlight one of the amusing things my wife and I discovered that we can do with the medical literature.

Turns out, the words "holiday", "Christmas", "Santa", "Hanukkah", and "solstice" actually appear a number of times in the peer-reviewed literature on PubMed. That means we can add them to our database.

Note: this is obviously a silly, fun exercise, but we're not cooking the data at all. Everything we report is exactly as our algorithm found it in the literature. The interpretation of the results is, of course, totally made up for our own amusement.

I was fully prepared to see these terms associated with anxiety, depression, or other such morbid terms that might cause them to show up in the medical literature.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that holiday is most strongly associated with happiness and humor!

Christmas is similar, though it's also paired with hallucinations(?)

Oddly, Hanukkah is only associated with dementia. What's that about?! (Actually, it only appears with one paper, and that paper doesn't really discuss dementia, but it has the keyword associated with it).

Santa is fascinating! Apparently Santa is strongly associated with digit span, reaction time, visual memory, and trail making. I'd imagine those are all very important skills for a man with his occupation. All that counting of kids and their gifts (digit span), speeding around the world in one night (reaction time), remembering all those kids and their homes (visual memory), and finding the optimal route to hit all the houses (trail making). Totally makes sense! (Actually, that's a bit weird that all of those show up... I'm pretty amused).

Finally, solstice. Apparently solstice is all about rhythm, so dance on, my Pagan friends, and enjoy your winter solstice!

Best wishes from the brainSCANr crew (Jessica and Bradley Voytek).

Expect more (real) science from us here after the new year!

In the mean time, follow us here, add us to your RSS, or follow Brad on Twitter to keep up to date!

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