Meeting between Gill and Yannis, Thursday 15th June 2017

Gill and Yannis met to discuss his research, into the use of oxytocin as a therapeutic, and to review the conceptual figures that are typically used to visually communicate this area of research. Yannis had provided Gill with example papers from the field (listed at the bottom of this post) and she had re-drawn and dissembled some of the conceptual figures from these papers, so that they could be reviewed during the meeting.

As intra-nasal delivery is a potential route for the administration of oxytocin, some of the images were similar to those Gill had reviewed with Nisha during this meeting.   Some of the points discussed during that meeting were also raised again during the meeting with Yannis, namely:

  • The shapes of visual elements are often indicative, but their colours seldom are.
  • Conceptual figures, or elements from them, are often re-used in later papers by the same author (the two MacDonald papers, in this case).
  • Visual representations of the same process can vary significantly from one paper to the next.
  • Many conceptual figures, particularly in journal papers, contain a huge amount of information, which can make them difficult to read.
  • Conceptual figures could, and almost certainly should, be designed differently for use in journal papers, presentations and posters.

All of these issues will be revisited in more detail during this collaboration, and will feature in future blog posts.

Other points discussed by Gill and Yannis included:

  • How anatomically correct should a figure be, if its main purpose is to visualise a drug pathway? Some of the images in the 2014 paper had been produced by a medical illustrator and so were very anatomically accurate, but this made it more difficult to visually distinguish the pathways. Other figures were anatomically inaccurate, which also did not help the visual communication.  Perhaps a more diagrammatic approach to visualising the drug pathways would be more successful. A figure should also be tailored to its audience, which may not require anatomical detail.
  • Some of the figures contained additional visual elements (small illustrations or extra text labels) that did not add to the communication of the science but did serve to make the overall figure appear more complex. The figures from the Nature Neuroscience Review paper (Ludwig, 2006) stood out in terms of their visual clarity and consistency. As these figures were almost certainly produced in-house by the Nature graphic design team, that is probably not surprising.
  • Yannis suggested that animations could be used, as an alternative to a sequence of static images, at least in presentations. Gill has some experience of producing simple 2D animations using Flash and AfterEffects software, including several animations used to help explain geophysical principles. Animation is certainly an area that can be looked at further during the collaboration.


Conceptual figures were reviewed, and some re-drawn, from these journal papers:

Djupesland, P.G. et al (2014) The nasal approach to delivering treatment for brain diseases: an anatomic, physiologic, and delivery technology overview. Therapeutic Delivery, 5(6), pp 709-733.

Grinevich, V. et al (2016) Assembling the Puzzle: Pathways of Oxytocin Signaling in the Brain. Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 79, pp. 155-164

Guastella, A.J. et al (2012) Recommendations for the standardisation of oxytocin nasal administration and guidelines for its reporting in human research. Psychoneuroendocrinology,

Ludwig, M. and Leng, G. (2006) Dendritic peptide release and peptide-dependent behaviours. Nature Neuroscience Review, February 2006, Vol. 7, pp. 126-136.

MacDonald, K. and MacDonald, T. M. (2010) The Peptide That Binds: A Systematic Review of Oxytocin and its Prosocial Effects in Humans. Harvard Review Psychiatry, Vol. 18, No. 1.

MacDonald, K. and Feifel, D. (2013) Helping oxytocin deliver: considerations in the development of oxytocin-based therapeutics for brain disorders. Frontiers in Neuroscience, March 2013, Vol. 7, Article 35.

Young, L.J. and Barrett, C. E. (2015) Can oxytocin treat autism? Science, Vol. 347, Issue 6224, pp. 825-826.

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