Psychedelic drugs reduce symptoms for SOF veterans + Sex differences: taboo science?

C C Offline
Psychedelic drugs can greatly reduce psychiatric symptoms among special forces veterans, study finds (pharmacology)

INTRO: A recent study published in Chronic Stress found support for a psychedelic treatment not yet approved in the United States. US Special Operations Forces (SOF) Veterans treated with ibogaine and 5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) showed large reductions in symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety... (MORE - details)

A study finds sex differences in the brain. Does it matter? (physiology)

EXCERPTS: For Armin Raznahan, publishing research on sex differences is a fraught proposition. [...] Raznahan learned early that searching for dissimilarities between men’s and women’s brains can have unintended effects. ... Nevertheless, Raznahan has continued to study sex differences, in the hope that they could help us better understand neurodevelopmental disorders. ... Last Monday, he and his team published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that not only reported reliable sex differences in the volumes of certain parts of men’s and women’s brains but also tied those differences to the direct influence of sex chromosomes.

[...] While most regions looked similar, in some spots, either men or women seemed to have more gray matter. By comparing their results to another large data set, Raznahan’s team found that these brain regions were associated with areas where genes on the sex chromosomes are disproportionately expressed. For Raznahan, this potential link between chromosomes and brain structure is particularly exciting. “If we can understand the biology of sex better, maybe those pathways are going to help us understand what is happening to put a person at risk of manifesting symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, for example,” he says.

But other scholars question the idea that this sort of research will help us understand mental disorders. Lise Eliot, a professor of neuroscience ... believes that sex differences in the prevalence of some disorders might be better explained by biases among doctors, or in the diagnostic criteria, rather than by biology. [...] And without an obvious medical benefit, Eliot thinks this type of research will simply reinforce the idea that men and women are fundamentally different, or even justify misogyny-although the authors may not intend such an outcome. This research is “far from having medical value,” she says. Instead, it can “validate the fixed, hardwired, God-given-however you want to put it-differences between the sexes, so that we can get over this idea of real equality.”

Concerns like these are one reason why sex difference research in neuroscience has attracted so much controversy. But worries about consistency have also plagued the discipline. Studies that report sex differences in the sizes of brain regions, or in how strongly some regions are connected to others, often disagree about just where those differences lie. “The longer people have been at it, the muddier it’s gotten,” Eliot says.

[...] Where does this leave us? Raznahan’s team found a pattern of sex differences in the brain and associated that pattern with sex chromosome expression. But it remains unclear whether these differences mean anything at all in terms of psychology and behavior. Yet people may still take the differences to indicate that there’s a fundamental, biological distinction between men and women. It’s this link between the brain and real-world consequences-behavior, cognition, emotion-that makes this research so controversial, de Vries argues. “The moment it’s about the brain, something differs, some switch is pulled. And I think it's because it comes so close to what we think defines us,” he says.

Eliot goes even farther: She contends that the research community as a whole, whether consciously or not, is looking in the brain for evidence that men and women have essentially different natures. “Why are there so many studies of human brain sex difference?” she asks. “I challenge you to find some studies on human kidney differences, human lung differences. There are probably as many differences, if not more.”

But for Raznahan, de Vries, and McCarthy, the possibility of making progress toward understanding mental disorders makes studying brain sex differences an ethical imperative, even if others may use their research to defend essentialist or sexist beliefs. “We can’t not make discoveries,” McCarthy says, “because they might be misused.” (MORE - details)
Syne Offline
The argument that we shouldn't do science lest it tell us something we don't want to hear is strong with Eliot. Why does anyone tolerate science-denying scientists?

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