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Are neckties dangerous to your health?

Wearing a necktie significantly decreases cerebral blood flow says a new study in the journal Neuroradiology. This finding caused a minor flurry of activity on Twitter, and as usual, the press sensationalized and misinterpreted the study’s results.

Here’s a headline from the Deccan Chronicle: “Wearing ties hamper [sic] productivity in office; here’s why.” The sub- heading is “Study suggests men who wear T-shirts in the office may produce better work.” T-shirts were not mentioned in the paper. The name of the journal that published it was incorrect in the article too.

Forbes didn’t do much better. It’s lede is “Neckties are stupid. Could they also make you stupid?” The paper said nothing of the kind.

Leave it to the New York Post to win the prize by starting its story with “Comfortably dressed men may be smarter and higher-functioning than guys who wear ties—because the neckwear reduces blood flow to the brain, according to new research.” And the Post story warned “In extreme cases, insufficient blood flow to the brain can kill organ tissue or cause a stroke.”

The German investigators actually found after tightening a necktie cerebral blood flow is reduced by an average 7.4% with a further drop of 5.7% when the tie is loosened after 15 minutes. These findings were based on MRI data measured in 15 men wearing ties compared to 15 men who without ties. The paper said a drop in cerebral blood flow was observed in 13/15 (86.6%) subjects wearing a necktie.

The results control group are a bit confusing because 5/15 (33.3%) showed an increase in cerebral blood flow, while 6/15 (40%) had a decrease. The paper says the remaining six had less than 1 mL per minute per 100 g variation in a cerebral blood flow which was judged as no change. The math doesn’t quite add up as 5 + 6 + 6 = 17. The reason for the drop in cerebral blood flow in 40% of the controls was unclear. The authors thought it might have been due to anxiety caused by “the initial unfamiliar situation inside the MRI.”

Jugular venous flow was also measured and showed no significant changes in either group.

The authors did not attempt to address cognitive function. They said only five of the subjects had a drop in cerebral blood flow of 10% or more and “the clinical value of our findings should be investigated in further studies with different patient cohorts.”

I have a different suggestion. Forget the whole thing because it is not worth wasting time on.

Thanks to @Vilavaite (Dr. María J. Díaz Candamio) for the tip.

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