Study of Pot Smokers' Brains Shows That MRIs Cause Bad Science Reporting -but if you are lucky will result in a very clever analysis (like this one) of what happens when writers who don't understand "bench" science try to apply it to the "bedside." Jacob Sullum does a nice job of showing just how significant writing is in communicating data - and how poor writing results in medical myth making.
"This week a study of cannabis consumers published by The Journal of Neuroscience provided powerful evidence that MRI scans cause shoddy science reporting."
"....it is not clear whether the brain differences were caused by marijuana. It also is not clear how long the differences last or whether they have any functional significance.
Those nuances generally were lost in press coverage of the study, which presented the MRI scans as evidence that smoking pot causes brain damage. News outlets claimed the study found that "marijuana re-shapes brains of users" (NBC News), that "even casually smoking marijuana can change your brain" (The Washington Post), that "casual pot use impacts brains of young adults" (The Oregonian), that "recreational pot use" is "harmful to young people's brains" (Time), that "casual marijuana use" is "bad for young adults" (The Times of India), and that "even 'casual' marijuana use can knacker bits of your brain" (Gizmodo UK). A Medical News Today headline quoted the researchers as saying "casual marijuana use changes the brain," although that statement does not appear in the article under the headline, in the study itself, or in press releases about the study issued by Northwestern University,Massachusetts General, and the Society for Neuroscience, which publishes The Journal of Neuroscience. "
January 18th, 2015
Is a data strategist and communications expert.