Journal of Neurochemistry retracts paper after SUNY Upstate medical school finds evidence of fraud

Following an investigation by the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate into the work of one of its neuroscientists, the Journal of Neurochemistry has retracted a 2007 paper.

The retraction notice is quite clear about why the paper is being withdrawn:

The following article from Journal of Neurochemistry, “Functional nerve growth factor and trkA autocrine/paracrine circuits in adult rat cortex are revealed by episodic ethanol exposure and withdrawal” by Bruns M. and Miller MW., published online on 22 December 2006, Volume 100, Issue 5, 2007, pages 1155–1168 (now available through has been retracted by the Chief Editors. This action follows the advice from the President of SUNY Upstate after an investigation into allegations of research misconduct by Dr. Michael Miller. The preponderance of evidence reviewed in that investigation suggested that Figures 2 to 6 in this publication have been falsified. Dr. Bruns was not the subject of any investigation.

The paper has been cited five times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Michael W. Miller, whose hiring was the subject of a 2000 Upstate press release,  is no longer employed at Upstate, and we do not know his whereabouts. We understand that the case has been referred to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), which investigates allegations of fraud by federally funded scientists. According to the 2000 release:

Miller brings to SUNY Upstate more than $3 million in research grants, much of it dedicated to the study of the effect of alcohol on brain cells, fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol neurotoxicity. His grant support comes from the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and the Department of Veterans Affairs. His research interests include, the cerebral cortex, developmental neurobiology, growth factors, neuronal death, neuronal plasticity and neurotoxicology.

Miller’s co-author, Marla Bruns, whom the notice makes clear was not the subject of the investigation, is now a neurology resident at Ohio State. We’ve tried to reach her as well as Upstate, and will update with anything we hear back. [Update, 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 1/25/12: Bruns returned our call to say she had no comment on the case.]

In an unrelated case, the ORI recently found that a former SUNY Upstate grad student had manipulated Western blots.

Hat tip: Greg Pattyn

16 thoughts on “Journal of Neurochemistry retracts paper after SUNY Upstate medical school finds evidence of fraud”

    1. “Michael W. Miller, Ph.D., a researcher noted for his study of the developing brain, has been named professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at SUNY Upstate Medical University.”

      Should answer your question.

    1. Don’t think so. Van Parijs got off with home detention, and that was supposed to be the case when the federal government was throwing the book at the most egregious fraudster…

  1. Any reference to this guy has disappeared from
    the university/departmental website as if he never existed. Denial? Also unlike previous cases the fate of this guy is unknown

  2. He was indeed the department chair. I can tell you that this is not an isolated case and ORI has been involved for long before this manuscript investigation. It is surprising to me that this case has been so slow to hit the internet…there is a lot more to this story than is presented here.

  3. a setback for all those who live with FASD and those who strive to draw attention to the devastating effect of pre-natal alcohol on the developing brain.
    – and very convenient for the alcohol industry and those who deny the effect of alcohol on the developing brain.

  4. He received a MERIT award and a P50 Center…and who knows how many of is awards depended directly or indirectly (I.e. his record) on faked data.

    Think of the poor honest chump who couldn’t get her NIAAA grant funded b/c this guy’s applications were viewed as better. Not to mention all the time people wasted trying to replicate and extend his supposed findings.


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