Academic Publishing Lawyering-up University Affairs

Who owns the brains in Moscow, Amunts lawyer’s version

Katrin Amunts and University of Düsseldorf deploy lawyers to silence whistleblowers. After I was threatened with lawsuit, this post replaces the previous one. Learn the truth of who owns the brains in Moscow.

This post replaced the previous one, after Katrin Amunts, scientific director of Human Brain Project, together with her University of Düsseldorf and also representing the Forschungszentrum (FZ) Jülich, has tasked the law firm Hoecker from Cologne to issue an “Order to Delete” against my previous article. It turns out, a certain Vadim Istomin is a slanderous liar, and it is illegal under German law to cite anything he says, even critically. I am not sure how it works, to declare anything a person says illegal, but there we are.

Vadim Istomin claimed to be a former senior colleague of Amunts and accused her former mentor Karl Zilles of having presented brain sections analysed in Moscow in 1980ies as DFG-funded research from Düsseldorf. Amunts’ lawyer Lucas Brost of Hoecker law explains that the brains are indeed from Moscow, but argues that Istomin is such an twisted person that none of his opinions and feelings must be ever published or cited. Both Istomin and myself are threatened with lawsuits, and were served a nearly-identical letter, mine in German, Istomin’s obviously Google-translated in English, given all the embarrassing mistakes, and has a hefty bill attached.

Learn now whom the human brains, collected in 1980ies at the Moscow Institute for Clinical Psychiatry, rightfully and exclusively belong to.

In a good company

The Hoecker lawyer Brost incidentally specialises on educating journalists about what to write about Hoecker customers. In October 2015, Brost warned me in a letter never to write anything negative about his client, the cancer researcher Tina Wenz, former DFG-funded group leader at the University of Cologne. Apparently I was not the only one Wenz deployed Hoecker Law against, with a tremendous success: she was found guilty of research misconduct by both DFG and University of Cologne in public statements where Wenz was explicitly named, 6 of her papers were retracted. Wenz’ new employer Boehringer Ingelheim voiced their support for their lab head, however for some reasons unknown Dr Wenz is now a freelance life coach teaching “resilience”.

In August 2013, Hoecker Law issued a court injunction against a German daily SZ . The purpose was to teach journalists that the “stem cell” experiments which the cardiology professor Bodo Strauer (incidentally like Amunts also professor at University Clinic Düsseldorf) performed on his patients, were actually a success and very much reproducible, and that citing any scientists who disagree is illegal In The Name of German People. This maybe prompted the state prosecutor not to follow the request from University of Düsseldorf to charge Strauer, while his university was apparently simply too scared of Strauer’s lawyers to do anything much about their retired chief cardiologist (more here). Wisely so, the German courts are huge fans of regenerative medicine: according to recent court verdicts, the regenerative potential of autologous “stem” cells has been faithfully proven on gratefully cured (even if incidentally deceased) patients by other German regmed researchers, Heike and Thorsten Walles as well as Paolo Macchiarini and Philipp Jungebluth, the latter had me sentenced in the appeal court in Berlin.

Thus warned, please read the revised article, and ignore any copies some crook might have made of the past one as well as anything that shady Istomin (or others like Sylvie Coyaud) might write elsewhere on the internet about his alleged collaboration with Professor Katrin Amunts. Instead, listen to Hoecker Law: these are all lies, just like much of the stuff written about other upstanding and honest Hoecker clients, namely Professor Bodo Strauer and Dr Tina Wenz.

Brain Drain, Moscow to Düsseldorf

The truth, as it really happened, according to Hoecker Law

Vadim Istomin is computational neuroscientist, who trained in Moscow when USSR still existed. He left the Soviet state before it collapsed in 1989/1990 for USA, where he worked at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and then founded his own consulting agency. Istomin recently decided to tell a story [link removed because the legal opinion says Istomin is a liar], which involves the biggest stars of German neuroscience: the scientific director of the €1 billion-heavy Human Brain Project, Katrin Amunts (see my interview with her here) and Amunts’ former mentor, Karl Zilles, then head of the C. & O. Vogt Institute of Brain Research at the Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf. Amunts leads a department at the nearby Helmholtz institute FZ Jülich, and used to be professor at the nearby RWTH University of Aachen, from that position she moved back to Düsseldorf to take over from Zilles the directorship of the Vogt Institute. The emeritus Zilles himself then swapped as “senior professor” to RWTH Aachen and is presently affiliated with Amunts’ department at FZ Jülich.

Amunts was born in the socialist Eastern Germany as Fiedler, she learned Russian and earned her doctorate in medicine at the Moscow Institute for Clinical Psychiatry, a place Istomin had absolutely no connection to even if he defended his own thesis there. Please do not believe his dirty lies.

The Düsseldorf papers

The focus of Istomin’s story were two papers published by Amunts and Zilles in 1995 and 1997, which described computational studies of cortical cyto-architecture on freshly prepared paraffin brain sections from adult and child donors (2 to 24hrs post mortem).

Katrin Amunts, Vadim Istomin, Axel Schleicher, Karl Zilles.

Postnatal development of the human primary motor cortex: a quantitative cytoarchitectonic analysis

Anatomy and Embryology, (1995) 192:557-571 (pdf here).  

Katrin Amunts, Axel Schleicher, Karl Zilles.

Persistence of layer 4 in the primary motor cortex (area 4) of Children with Cerebral Palsy

Journal für Hirnforschung (1997), 38, 2, 247-260 (pdf here)

Istomin’s central claim was that the brains from 21 adult and 33 child donors presented there as DFG-funded research are actually same as those of 20 adults and 36 children described in Amunts dissertation from 1989, according to his comparison. If you wish to alert the journal editors to the dispute, send you concerns to Profs Zilles and Amunts: the Springer title Anatomy & Embryology is edited even today by Zilles, while J Hirnforschung used to be issued by C&O Vogt Institute for Brain Research (and ceased publishing in 1999).

The Amunts et al 1995 paper did not provide any clinical details, but listed the patients’ age at the time of death, and the sequence of listing neatly match that in her PhD thesis, according to Istomin’s analysis. The Russian-language Fiedler dissertation (publicly available in the Moscow university library) states the causes of death: various diseases, but also “mechanical asphyxiation” or “rupture of internal organs”. Istomin could match even more convincingly with the paediatric cases, because the paper Amunts et al 1997 listed the lethal clinical diagnoses which proved to fit those described in the 1989 Fiedler thesis. Istomin summed up, but be aware that even if this is openly admitted as correct by Hoecker, this analysis is to be treated as slanderous anyway:

Out of 20 “adult” control cases (ages 27 to 90 years) published in both papers all are matched to Katrin’s Ph.D. case tables. Four additional cases, used in Ph.D., were not used in these papers. Out of 14 Cerebral Palsy cases published in the second paper 11 are matched by age and clinical details. Two cases are “new” (were not included in Ph.D.) One case is a match by age and clinical details, but mismatched by siting ability (possible typo: “could sit up” in Russian text, “Could not sit up” in English text). Based on case code assigned to each case, which is just the date of postmortem study of each patient (see tables from Amunts’s Ph.D., fig.1-4 above), we can see that all normal control brains and Cerebral Palsy brains were collected between 1981 and 1988. The tabulated summary of every matched case is presented in a separate file: summary data tables link.

The clinical details in Amunts et al 1997 match neatly her Russian dissertation from 1989. This is now confirmed by Hoecker Law.

The Hoecker letter explicitly confirms that the Moscow provenance of all brains described in the two papers is indeed correct, and then it somehow seems to suggest that these Moscow-stored brains were remotely analysed by the Zilles lab from Düsseldorf, and even goes so far as to forbid Istomin to say he developed his TAS analysis software in 1980ies without any input from Zilles (in Düsseldorf, behind Iron Curtain). Bottom line is: what happened in Moscow must never be reported online because Istomin is a slanderous unreliable source.

Istomin’s claims to have been involved into supervision of Amunts’ thesis are also lies, as Hoecker Law explained to Istomin (translation theirs, here and following):

“The Group Leader and Advisor of our client was Doctor Gelia Krivitzkaja, not you. You got your doctoral degree in 1987. The scientific supervision was usually reserved for professors or habilitated scientists”. 

Istomin maintains he never claimed to have been the official supervisor, merely a co-supervisor, but we now know he is lying anyway. Just to insinuate a young medicine graduate like Amunts might have needed an advice from anyone but her professor is slanderous. Istomin instead even throws dirt at Prof Krivitzkaja, he even transcribes her Russian name wrong, in English instead of Hoecker-approved German transliteration! Don’t believe Istomin’s lies like this here:

“Officially, Katrin’s thesis adviser was Prof. Krivitskaya, With all due respect, she understood close to nothing about computers and image processing (remember: computers were rarity in 1980s in USSR), and she never participated in any way in our software development.”

Of course Prof KRIVITZKAJA didn’t have to know computers, because it was the soon-Dr Fiedler who brought all that German expertise and established all the technology in these less than 2 years (not 5 years, as Istomin lies!) which she needed for her PhD dissertation!!! This is exactly why not Krivitzkaja is coauthor on that 1995 paper, but Istomin, because, as Hoecker Law warns us, he contributed virtually nothing to Prof Zilles’ remote brain analysis technology! No, wait…

Katrin Amunts, Karl Zilles. Photo: FZ Jülich

The anonymous character witness, who is definitely NOT Zilles

Anyhow, an anonymous and utterly unbiased expert codenamed “Grey” and based at the RWTH University of Aachen suspects in this comment that Istomin is actually a real criminal with a very shady past:

“Looking at Istomin’s LinkedIn CV presents a bizarre work history, with too many holes and unknowns, which casts serious doubts on his credibility, and requires fact-checking”

Same expert from RWTH Aachen pointed out that also Leonid Schneider is a fraudulent character not to be trusted. I namely included into my ORCID profile papers where I am not first author:

“Moreover, looking at Schneider’s own biographical description, one finds that his presentation of his own scientific accomplishment is deplorable: he lists impressive publications, but you must click multiple times to discover that in one, he is author #10 out of 14 (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6204-9470), he is #3 out of 8 in another (https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2015/TB/C5TB00144G#!divAbstract), and #14/28 in a third (https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2015/TB/C5TB00144G#!divAbstract). That’s not cheating, but it isn’t honest either. Academics with integrity just don’t do that. Feh.”

Whoever that Aachen expert was, it was most certainly not Prof Zilles because he would never done such thing. Actually Zilles described Istomin’s article in an email to me from 5 August 2019 as “grotesque and false”, but he so far hasn’t elaborated or followed up as promised. Professor Zilles did mention to be undergoing an operation next day, it is good news he recovered swiftly, as this conference tweet from 11 August 2019 suggests:

University responds with legal action against whistleblowers

Another coauthor, Axel Schleicher, formerly at Vogt Institute in Düsseldorf, last seen at FZ Jülich, could not be reached. Amunts, always in cc, never replied to any of my emails, but she now obviously did with the Hoecker Law letter, signed in her official capacity as FZ Jülich scientist. The University of Düsseldorf and its clinic (to which the Vogt Institute formally belongs) announced to provide a statement eventually, and then confirmed that the “Order to Delete” letter from Hoecker law indeed functions as their official reply to me. The head of press communication, Achim Zolke, wrote to me namely:

“the legal representative of Prof. Dr. med. Amunts has taken up the matter and in the meantime has approached you with some details in that letter. In view of this, an opinion of the HHU [Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf, -LS] is currently unnecessary.”

The new guidelines issued by German Research Council (DFG) explicitly demand a protection of whistleblowers. Yet this was how University of Düsseldorf reacted to my notification of suspected research misconduct: they sent a lawyer to silence me and to make sure my report is deleted. Here it should be mentioned that the DFG-registered university Ombudsman to whom I sent my concerns (as per protocol), never acknowledged receiving them. Professor Klaus Bilda is law expert and incidentally former President of the Supreme Court (Oberlandesgericht) of the federal state NRW. This makes the threat the university issued against me even scarier.

I would not be surprised if the university leadership should instead open a misconduct investigation against yours truly, with the goal to strip me of my own doctorate degree, obtained in 2008 at the same University of Düsseldorf. They are no fans of mine already since the Antonia Joussen affair, and back then the university also resorted to engaging a law firm.

“Autoreferat”, or a short edition, of the Katrin Fiedler dissertation. Cover page

Putting the facts right, legally

Istomin’s article, which I absolutely forbid you to search and read, started innocuously with some post-publication peer review of the so-called GLI brain analysis technology, and then moved to accuse Zilles and Amunts that, when discussing brain “shrinkage”, they allegedly provided an incorrect citation. Instead of having cited “Amunts et al, 1995”, Istomin says the correct reference would have been his own PhD thesis. That we now know, is even more illegal. A court injunction will be issued soon to ascertain In The Name of German People that what Istomin really graduated about, had zero to do with any brain section analysis. In fact, this document purporting to be the PhD dissertation of V. Istomin, must be a fake. The telltale signs, which clearly contradict the Hoecker objectively factually correct letter, are:

  1. Istomin defended at Institute for Clinical Psychiatry in 1987 which must be a lie because Amunts defended there in 1989. Any suggestion the two might have ever worked together on same or even related subject is slanderous.
  2. Istomin’s thesis was defended in the “specialisation 03.00.11- Embryology and Histology” which is a lie because Amunts defended in that area, see Point 1.
  3. The thesis is titled “Automatical Morphocorticography of the human brain (development of the method and results of application)” which is a lie because Amunts defended about “Quantitative Analysis of the Cytoarchitecture of Layer 4 of the Human Brain in Ontogenesis” which basically proves that there cannot be any previous theses which developed the software she used, see Point 1.
Istomin PhD thesis, cover page.

Istomin fraudulently claims there used to exist some kind of Iron Curtain which allegedly used to separate scientists in Europe, e.g. him in Moscow and Zilles in Düsseldorf. As we will learn later in the Hoecker letter, that slanderous claim is false. Istomin also libellously claims Amunts joined the lab he used to work in already in 1983 or 1984. This is of course a lie, as Hoecker Law explains. To attribute any past affiliation of Prof Amunts with a known criminal like Istomin is slanderous. It is even more slanderous to assume Dr Amunts needed more than 2 years in Moscow to procure brains, to embed and to prepare paraffin sections, to develop a software, to establish and to perform the analyses of all of these brains, all by herself, then to write and defend her doctorate thesis. Of course she, a medical student in Moscow since 1981 (according to her own CV), could never have worked at Moscow Institute of Psychiatry before 1987, because we KNOW for fact that medical students of Pirogov Medical School in Moscow were forbidden to seek training at that institute, exactly to protect them from Istomin! Or something like this, I really don’t know anymore.

From Amunts’ own self-posted CV on Academia.net. It is slanderous, because Hoecker says his client started working on her dissertation in Moscow only in 1988.

Hoecker Law points out the TRUTH, to both myself and Istomin:

“Your claim that our client worked at the institute 10 to 4 years before she began working with Prof. Zilles in Dusseldorf, is again wrong. Our client has spent part of her doctoral studies at the Institute for Clinical Psychiatry in Moscow from 1988-1989, so less than 2 years. She started in Düsseldorf three years after her time in Moscow. Equally wrong is the assertion that our client has collected the data for her dissertation for at least 4 years. The work on the doctoral thesis began in late 1987 and was completed 2 years later.

The [brain, -LS] preparations remained in Moscow at all times, as you know. “

Analysis by Istomin. Patient ages of adult donors match between Amunts et al 1995 and her own PhD dissertation, Fiedler 1989. Brains were collected some hours post mortem, so why does date of death in the Fiedler thesis so often lie in early 1980ies, long before Amunts started her dissertation in 1988?

How the brains from early 1980ies happened to get gathered by Amunts in 1988-1989, is something only Hoecker can explain, but I’d rather not ask. Let’s just assume the thesis contains typos, and all these dates of death in 1981, 1982, 1983 etc are actually slanderously false. The last quoted sentence by Hoecker Law is also puzzling. Because the real accusation which Istomin originally raised, was his suspicion that Amunts and Zilles presented those brain samples (produced in Moscow in early 1980ies) as their own research in Düsseldorf, exclusively funded by DFG via the grant SFB 194/A6, awarded 1991-2002 to Zilles at Vogt Institute. The acknowledgements in both 1995 and 1997 papers namely said:

“This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 194/A6).”

This made Istomin question how can the West-German research funder DFG be acknowledged for the work which in his recollection was largely “supported between 1978 and 1989 by the budget of the All Union Center for Mental Health and Institute of Psychiatry of the Academy of Sciences Of USSR“.

According to this CV by Amunts at German Ethics Council (where she is member), Hoecker apparently slanders their own client by claiming she was working in Moscow 1988-1989. That CV says she was in Dummersdorf, North-East Germany.

On one hand, we are told Istomin is a liar, on the other hand, Hoecker Law freely admits that yes, all the adult and child brains in these two papers, harvested 2 to 24 hours post-mortem from 1981 on, have been procured and always remained in Moscow, however regardless of what Fiedler thesis says, these were actually collected as part of her doctorate studies 1988-1989, and these brain paraffin sections were only ever properly analysed in Düsseldorf after 1992, years after the analysis submitted by Hoecker’s client as her doctorate dissertation in 1989, which somehow doesn’t have anything to do with the analysis she published with Zilles in 1995 and 1997, even though those are exactly same brain sections which always remained in Moscow. Now my brain hurts.

Slanderously correct naming of hospitals

This following paragraph I previously wrote is specifically cited by Hoecker law as libellous and wrong, Istomin is ordered to remove it from MY site. Yes, seriously:

Later on Istomin elaborates how serious the situation was under the Soviet regime: “any “unofficial” cooperation with people from West Germany was practically impossible, not to mention – very dangerous”. It is also worth recalling who used to lead the Moscow Institute of Psychiatry [where Istomin falsely claims to have worked together with Amunts]: namely the nefarious psychiatrist Andrei Snezhnevsky, responsible for incarceration and abuse of thousands of Soviet dissidents, since Snezhnevsky diagnosed everyone critical of the Soviet regime as a dangerous schizophrenic. No contact to the Vogt Institute of Brain research in western Germany would have been even thinkable under such a boss.

Hoecker law states (English translation theirs):

“The reproach you have communicated is again wrong. The tissue did not originate from the Moscow Institute of Psychiatry, but was acquired at routine autopsies at the Moscow Heart Clinic and Children’s Hospital. The Institute for Brain Research, in which our client worked on the train of her doctorate and in which also her supervisor, Doctor Gelia Krivitzkaja, was located, established institutional contact with the Children’s Hospital.

It is good to know that Hoecker again reiterates that Istomin correctly allocated all brains from these 2 papers to the collection from 1980ies in Moscow, it is however unclear what exactly the libel accusation is. Does it really matter which hospital exactly the brain of a person who died from “mechanical asphyxiation” or “rupture of internal organs” came from? Apparently yes, but Istomin never said what he is accused of having sad, and neither have I! Istomin in fact named exactly same hospitals which Hoecker Law postulates as correct:

I know very well how the tissue, used in Katrin’s work was collected,  because between 1980 and 1986 I personally participated in collection of practically all adult brains, both “pathological” and of the “normal control”.  Approximately between 1980 and 1985 the Institute of Psychiatry participated in tissue collection program, administered by Moscow Institute of Cardiology (headed by prof. [Yevgeniy] Chazov, who also was a Minister of Health. […] The source of children’s brains was different. The origin was Moscow Morosov’s Children’s Hospital

If Hoecker names exactly these same hospitals as Istomin, and says these are the correct ones, why is it illegal for Istomin or myself to say same thing? Because the truth is:

  1. Istomin can never have been the one who personally helped collect these brains between 1980 and 1986, because Amunts only started her doctorate thesis in 1988 (not even 1987 as Amunts herself falsely claims on her own CV)
  2. We know for fact (cf Hoecker letter) that all these brains were collected for the sole purpose of Amunts thesis only, between 1988 and 1989, and had zero to do with Istomin or any other non-German persons.
  3. Many donor brains are listed in Fielder thesis with dates of death from 1981 to 1987. This is obviously FALSE, probably typos by a busy genius doctorate researcher who meant to write 1988 or 1989 actually. Citing from the Fiedler dissertation constitutes slander against Prof Amunts.
“Matching Infantile Cerebral Palsy cases published in the second paper [6] to K.Fiedler’s PhD. table 2 [14], pages 53-57 (partial view)”

Hoecker Law also explains where else Istomin lied. Amunts apparently never worked at the same place as he did, even if both theses list same Institute for Clinical Psychiatry as academic affiliation. Proof: the place where Amunts worked had a different director:

“The Moscow Institute of Psychiatry was headed by Prof. Vartanyan, who had been in this position since 1987, when our client spent part of her doctoral work at the Institute of Clinical Psychiatry in Moscow (http://en.psychiatry.ru/history.php).”

Autoreferat K. Fiedler, 1st page. Says defended at Institute of Brain and Institute of Clinical Psychiatry, same institute Istomin thesis claims to have defended at.

Marat Vartanyan was indeed from 1988 to 1993 director of the Moscow Institute for Psychiatry (Институт психиатрии АМН СССР), but from 1963 to 1987 the director of that same institute was indeed Snezhnevsky, as Russian Wikipedia clearly states. If the institute is the same, and it was led until 1987 by Snezhnevsky (while Amunts own CV states 1987 as begin of the thesis), I am lost what exactly the accusation of slander is. This is why I herewith pre-emptively apologise for slandering Prof Snezhnevsky and beg to forgive me for sullying his name. These Soviet dissidents probably got what they deserved.

Libellous memories and feelings

There is another bit of German injunction law, which Amunts and her lawyer Brost of Hoecker Law refer to, and which eludes my understanding. Both Istomin and I are threatened with lawsuits should Istomin not immediately change his feelings and memories towards Amunts’ papers.

“You further claim that you had no knowledge about the publication entitled “Postnatal develop ment of the human primary engine cortex: a quantitative cytoarchitectonic analysis”. 

“Postnatal development of the human primary motor cortex: a quantitative cytoarchitec tonic analysis 

Anatomy and Embryology, (1995) 192: 557-571 (pdf here). 

Here the coauthor Istomin claims to have no knowledge of that paper’s existence until 2012.” 

This is – as you know – again a false factual claim. You visited the Dusseldorf Institute for Brain Research in September 1994. On this occasion, the joint publication has already been discussed in detail. Our client also informed you about the publication with a written note on December 21st 2014. This has been recorded in a memorandum of our client, which can be presented for evidence.”

The paper was accepted on 24 April 1995 and published in print in December 1995. Apparently Prof Amunts knew exactly when and in which form her paper will be published, and informed Istomin exactly one year in advance, 3 days before Christmas 2014. In any case, any attempt of Istomin not to remember this email verbatim is bound to constitute a crime of slander In The Name of German People.

Now you might have heard of scientists suing each other to obtain a coauthorship they think they deserve. According to Amunts and Hoecker, the German law apparently also regulates that complaining about not being sufficiently acknowledged by your scientist peers constitutes libel, punishable with a fine of €250k and/or 6 months in prison. Istomin (and myself) get warned:

“You further claim that you have not been correctly cited in another 1997 publication entitled ‘Persistence of Layer IV in the Primary Motor Cortex (area 4) of Children with Cerebral Palsy’. In particular, your method developed was not adequately appreciated. 

It says: 

“the lion share of referenced publication is based on my dissertation entitled “Automatic Morphocorticography of human brain”, and it was developed quite independently, in Moscow, Russia (former USSR), without any help or advise from K. Zilles or A. Schleicher, who were working not only in quite another city – Düsseldorf, but in quite another country as well – Germany.” 

The aforementioned claim is again false.”

My jaw dropped. Who knew that Istomin’s own PhD dissertation is actually not his own, but plagiarised from Schleicher and Zilles???? I have no clue how that was supposed to have worked in the space-time continuum, but this is exactly why one better does not argue with lawyers.

“Matching young control and age-matched control cases from paper [1995] to paper [1997].”

How to reuse data, lawyer’s version

Hoecker letter continues, and legally regulates the practice of image reuse across publications:

“It is clear from the bibliography of the article that your journal publications and the joint publication of you and our client from 1992 are cited. Also in this joint publication, the citation was handled in the same way as in 1995. The algorithm and the schematic pictures are shown and the corresponding journal articles cited. You have therefore not been “left out” in the publication. At the end of the article, it says again explicitly: 

„The authors thank V. Vinogradov from the Department of Pathology, The Morozov Hospital for Children, Moscow, for support in collecting the autopsy material and V. Istomin für his help at the beginning of the study.” 

This statement also reveals your next false factual claim: You misrepresent the origin of the tissue for the second publication. The tissue originated, as already shown, from the children’s hospital. Consequently, the support of Dr. Vinogradov from the Department of Pathology was acknowledged. 

In connection with the supposedly erroneous citation and your statement that you contributed the “lion share” to the results of the publication, it must also be noted that your dissertation contains only 14 cases of adult brains, whereas our client’s publication contained 54 cases, including 21 adults. In addition, you examined the cortical areas 10 (in all 14 cases), 17 (in only 7 cases) and 44 (in 12 cases), while the work of our client examined area 4, i.e. the motor cortex, and not your examined areas. 

There is therefore no sufficient basis for asserting that the “lion share” of the 1997 publication is based on your doctoral thesis.”

Hoecker educates us how the alleged “Re-use of pictures and of scientific data”,falsely decried by Istomin, is to understand correctly. The issue was that several figures and datasets in Amunts et al 1995 seem to match those ones Amunts previously published together with Istomin in 1992, obviously without any involvement of Zilles or Schleicher, since these are not co-authors or mentioned otherwise. The two papers appeared in 1992 in German and in English in the Vision & Voice Magazine, Amunts affiliation was listed as the Fraunhofer Society, East Berlin. Here an example.

Left: Fig 4 from Zilles paper Amunts et al 1995, right: Fig 3b from Amunts and Istomin, Vision & Voice Magazine 1992;6(1):18-22.

In another example Istomin claims the Zilles lab reused a brain scanning technology which he himself developed in Moscow between 1980 and 1986 and named “Automatic Morphocorticography”, or MCG. Istomin counts eight figures, namely Figures 2 – 9 reused from Amunts papers originally published in Soviet and GDR journals between 1985 and 1992, and Figures 10 a-c, which Istomin claims against better knowledge were “obtained as a direct printout of measurements results, which could be obtained only using hardware and software available in Moscow laboratory”.

Left, Fig 8 from Zilles paper Amunts et al 1995. Right, Fig 1 from Amunts & Istomin, Vision & Voice Magazine 1992;6(2):142-153

That all is obviously a red herring, because Hoecker law explains that in science it is perfectly correct to reuse old figures as allegedly novel research if that original paper is referenced: ” The algorithm and the schematic pictures are shown and the corresponding journal articles cited.” Maybe this is how Amunts-led Human Brain Project should increase both its publication output and citation index: just republish old results, with new co-authors!

In another part of the above statement from Hoecker, I struggle however to understand why Istomin is a liar if he said exactly same thing about that Mr Vinogradov and the Children’s hospital as Hoecker said:

“to the best of my knowledge, Dr. V. Vinogradov is a pathologist from Morosov’s Children’s Hospital in Moscow, who personally performed all postmortem procedureson child subjects, and contributed all children tissue material used in the study of K. Amunts.”

Why is repeating what Hoecker and Amunts say is the truth, is a “false factual claim” subject to court injunction? Because Hoecker says so.

Remote-analysis of brains in Moscow using the Düsseldorf Statistical Approach by Prof Zilles

What that awful Istomin also claimed, was that the TAS software he developed, has been used for the analyses published in these 1995 and 1997 papers by Amunts and Zilles. Istomin namely falsely believed that the Düsseldorf technology could not have operated without his TAS software, while, if I understand what Hoecker writes correctly, it was either the Moscow system in the USSR which operated on the Zilles software from Düsseldorf (remember, there never was any Iron Curtain?), or the Düsseldorf lab remotely analysed brains in Moscow with their local system using magic telepathy science-fiction DFG-funded supertechnology.

Hence, when Istomin says he visited Zilles lab in 1994 and saw “with my own eyes microscopes, computers, image processing system and other equipment” and “had to conclude that with available equipment the reproduction of my technology in Düsseldorf was impossible” and that he and his Vogt Institute hosts even travelled together roughly 200 km from Düsseldorf to the Ernst Leitz GmbH headquarters in Wetzlar “to discuss the possibility to purchase or to rent Leitz-TAS Plus, which was necessary to re-implement MCG technology“, Istomin lied.

Do not believe these above screenshots from the methods sections of Amunts et al 1995 and Amunts et al 1997. That wretched TAS software had virtually nothing to do with the papers’ main results. This is why what Istomin says here is a lie also, don’t believe a word of it:

“As it was stated in the discussed paper, the hardware used was texture analysis system TAS of Ernst Leitz, Wetzlar. GmbH. However, it is important to notice, that this system was custom-made, or modified for our laboratory in Moscow, and had no analogues anywhere in the world. Consequently, any developed software could be used only with our system. All measurements and image processing results using described methods could be obtained only in our Moscow laboratory and nowhere else.”

Amunts and Hoecker Law know exactly what really happened. Istomin’s software contributed to Amunts’ brain sections (collected in 1988-1989 from donors who died years ago, but due to a bending space-time continuum with only 2 to 24h post-mortem delay) merely the utterly irrelevant tasks of “scanning, segmentation, autofocusing, artifact elimination, overlapping cell separation, and […] morphometric parameter extraction and analysis“, a child in a sand box could have done that! Here the full explanation from Hoecker:

“Also, your allegation that the TAS software constitutes the crucial core of the scientific work of our client, is wrong. Our client collected a lot of data during her doctoral thesis. The collection of this data was tied to your TAS software. This included scanning, segmentation, autofocusing, artifact elimination, overlapping cell separation, and the first step in morphometric parameter extraction and analysis. This data was used as the basis for further statistical analysis in Düsseldorf (as described correctly in the publications), such as the extraction and evaluation of the smoothed curves, the layer-specific analysis and the statistical group comparison (ANOVA). 

The relevant part of the scientific evaluation and interpretation of the data going beyond the doctoral thesis of our client took place at the University of Düsseldorf. The same applies to new literature searches, etc. 

A recourse to the original data was always presented scientifically correct.

You furthermore state that the University in Dusseldorf would have had neither the equipment nor the scientific capacity to achieve comparable studies as you carried out in Moscow. This is again a false factual claim. 

In 1978 Prof. Zilles and Dr. Schleicher have shown together with Prof. Kretschmann as part of a DFG project in publications that they extracted and analysed laminar profiles on the basis of a TV-based hardware and corresponding, self-developed software. Thus, they have published comparable results more than 5 years before you did so. Surprisingly, you did not cite this work and give the false impression that this analytic strategy has been introduced by you (see Zilles, Schleicher, Kretschmann: A quantitative approach to cytoarchitectonics I. The areal pattern of the cortex of Tupaia belangeri. Anat. Embryol., 153, 195-212 (1978) | Zilles, Schleicher, Kretschmann: A Quantitative Approach to Cytoarchitectonics || The Allocortex of Tupaia belangeri Anat. Embryol. 154, 335-352 1978) / Istomin V, Shkliarov M. Automated investigation of the human cerebral cortex with a TV-based image analysis system (russ.) Korsakov’s Journal of Neuropathology and Psychiatry 1984; (7): 969-974). 

That criminal Istomin, pretending his silly useless TAS software had any relevant contribution, while we all know it was the technology of Zilles and the statistical skills in Düsseldorf which really analysed the brains stored far away in Russia! Also, how utterly slanderous of Istomin to fail citing Zilles in his Soviet publication from 1984 (we now know there was no such thing as Iron Curtain in reality). Prof Zilles must sue that lying crook unless Istomin issues a correction to his 1984 paper right now!

I have only one question. If all brain sections always remained in Moscow, as Hoecker explicitly states, and Istomin’s TAS analysis was near to useless, how could have Zilles in Düsseldorf distance-analysed the brains with his superior technology then? Uh-Uh, I fear that question is slanderous in itself.

RWTH students learn post-mortem brain analysis together with Katrin Amunts’ JARA-Brain from FZ Jülich. Photo: Julia Amunts

“Our client has worked scientifically flawlessly”

The Hoecker letter to myself and Istomin ends with Conclusions:

“Overall, it is clear that your article contains numerous false factual claims that draw a completely oblique picture in relation to the facts. In particular, the core charge that our client used ethically questionable material without adequate identification of your work is untenable. 

Consequently, there is no minimum evidence for the allegations you have made. Our client has worked scientifically flawlessly, she has appropriately taken into account your preparatory work and always kept you informed. 

Incidentally, the procedure for alleged scientific misconduct is institutionalized. You would have had the opportunity at any time to contact the institutions and ask for a review. That you obviously did not cause this speaks for itself.”

Well, there is a thing. The University of Düsseldorf reacted to my notification by sending me this very letter from Hoecker Law. So much for reporting anything. The letter to me also contained this section, which I now translated myself, also with help of Google:

“After we have informed you, it should be clear to you that Mr. Istomin – in particular because of his personal involvement – is not a suitable source for such serious and reprehensible allegations. He does not see himself adequately acknowledged in his scientific work and is now trying to denounce other colleagues – with whom he initially published together scientifically – more than two decades later.”

I still don’t understand what exactly the accusations of libel and “false factual claims” against Istomin and myself are. Do you?

Update 28.08.2019

More lies from Istomin, below in comment:

“Some of the brains were collected before K.Fiedler came to work with us, thus date discrepancy. She came probably in 1986, because her defense was in 1989: 4 years education is a formal requirement for “Candidate dissertation” (Ph.D.) in USSR (or “Аспирантура”, as it was called at that time).”

Of course the minimal duration of doctoral dissertation was officially set to 4 years at least in USSR, but: Hoecker Law says Dr Amunts defended in less than 2 years, 1988-1989. Which makes perfect sense, as future Scientific Director of Human Brain Project she was probably able to take the secret genius track to her graduation in under 2 years.


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6 comments on “Who owns the brains in Moscow, Amunts lawyer’s version

  1. Pingback: Brain Drain, Moscow to Düsseldorf – For Better Science

  2. First, I would like to congratulate Leonid with his article – it is very funny. Would “layers” like it or not – it is a question.
    However, I would like to comment to put things straight, because, I am afraid, behind controversy facts could be lost. Facts, however, are really very simple.

    I was working in the Institute of Clinical Psychiatry in Moscow from 1980 to 1989 in a capacity of a “Scientific Researcher” (“Научный сотрудник”). My responsibilities involved collection of brain tissues for research (not for my personal research – for all members of the Institute of Psychiatry and Institute of Brain Research), software development, image processing, statistical analysis.
    All adult “age control” brains used in my dissertation, as well as in K.Fiedler dissertation I processed with my own hands. Due to specific time requirements, for several years I had to literally sleep in the morgue once or twice a week, to handle the brains as soon as the body arrived (obviously, I was not alone: many people participated in this work). Some of the brains were collected before K.Fiedler came to work with us, thus date discrepancy. She came probably in 1986, because her defense was in 1989: 4 years education is a formal requirement for “Candidate dissertation” (Ph.D.) in USSR (or “Аспирантура”, as it was called at that time).
    All cases used in my and K.Fiedler’s dissertation were analyzed (as described in my post) using the software that I developed. It was original, pioneering work, based on new (at that time) technology called Mathematical Morphology (J. Serra and other authors from the CMM in France). To the best of my knowledge, in 1995 and 1997 papers, Zilles and Schleicher performed statistical analysis of already available digital profiles. In my opinion is a pittance compared to the volume of work that we did in Moscow, thus the “lion share” metaphor.

    Lawyers or no lawyers, but these are facts. Period.

    Like

    • Mr Istomin, I resent your ill-informed and slanderous speculation. Dr Amunts could never have started her doctoral thesis in 1986 as you claim. First of all, yes, USSR higher education rule was a minimum of 4 years for doctoral graduate school, but future research leaders (Prof Amunts leads Human Brain Project!) were probably allowed to take a secret “genius” fast track. It stands to reason!
      Then, as Dr Amunts CV clearly states, she started studying medicine at Pirogov Medical School in Moscow in 1981. The Soviet system for medical education was indisputably 5 years studies followed by 1 year of clinical training. Those who chose an academic instead of clinical training could skip that last one year and move straight into the 4 year graduate programme (called “aspirantura”) to obtain a PhD. Just count, Mr Istomin: 1981 plus 5 years is indeed 1986, sure. But this only means that in the following 2 years Dr Amunts could never have worked with you as PhD student because she was doing something very advanced and secret which is none of yours or mine business. After that, Prof Amunts started her PhD in 1988, as Hoecker Law already taught you, and graduated in less than 2 years under the secret “genius” fast track programme.

      Like

  3. Change the blog title to For Better Science (Just Kidding)- a humorous and sarcastic look at research by comedian Leonid Schneider
    That should take care of the lawyers trying to sue you

    Like

  4. Pingback: Il nuovo Glavlit - Ocasapiens - Blog - Repubblica.it

  5. Rex Rictor

    The law company should be reported to the Rechtsanwaltskammern for making false claims about a PhD process.

    Like

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