Evaluating Fiction As If It Were Reality

Evaluating Fiction As If It Were Reality

Harriet Hall calls it Tooth Fairy Science and it abounds in the world of pseudo-medicine. Modern technology is applied to fictional concepts with laughable results that are used to ‘prove’ that fiction is reality. A case in point:

Ear acupuncture and fMRI: a pilot study for assessing the specificity of auricular points.

Yes. The technique that can be prone to entirely spurious correlations. when applied to  small sample sizes. fMRI, the technique that finds brain activity in a dead salmon. That fMRI.

Remember ear acupuncture has no basis in known reality:

Auricular acupuncture therapy was discovered by Dr Paul Nogier based on observations that backaches were cured after the patient received a burn on their ear. Dr Nogier pictured an auricle as a fetus that was curled up and upside down; he used his anatomical knowledge to treat diseases by applying pressure to the reaction points that represent the internal organs.

Unless you are talking about Korean ear acupuncture, which, of course, is ancient. It is hard to say, but as best I can tell comparing Korean and Nogier ear maps, they are not the always the same but I do not know how much cross fertilization there has been over time between the two groups.

So when they say

As regards ear Acupuncture (EA) there is still some criticism about the clinical specificity of auricular points/areas representing organs or structures of the body.

I say, You think? Since it is a system not based on anatomy or physiology but a work of fiction, you find that a surprise? Anyone can come up with a homuculous and someone will think it reasonable.

So they take six people, stimulate two separate areas on the ear and find two different fMRI patterns. And without a dead salmon for control or blinding,  and conclude that their

results provide preliminary evidence on the specificity of two auricular acupoints; further research is warranted by means of fMRI both in healthy volunteers and in patients carrying neurological/psychiatric syndromes.

Color me skeptical.

I am amazed at how often high tech equipment is used to try and prove the validity of various pseudo-medicines. It is like a medical ghost hunter.


And I must say while I am not a fan of rats nor a PETA kind of guy, it is remarkable that a PubMed search of “electro acupuncture rats” gives 215 hits. That is a lot of rats being electrocuted for the sake of a fiction.

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Points of Interest 5/31/2014