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Tip: Understanding Rank

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

When you do a search, you can sort the results bibliographically alphabetical or by “rank”. What is Rank?

Rank refers to the search engine’s “best guess” as to the relevance of the result to the search you specified. The exact method of ranking used varies a bit depending on the search. In its most basic level, when you specify a single search term, rank looks at the density of the matches for the word in the document, and how close to the beginning of the document they appear as a measure of importance to the paper’s topic. The documents with the most matches and where the term is deemed to have the most importance, have the highest “relevance” and are ranked first (presented first).

When you specify more than one term to appear anywhere in the article, the method is similar, but the search engine looks at how many of those terms appear, and how close together they appear, how close to the beginning of the document, and can even take into account the relative rarity of the search terms and their density in the retrieved file, where infrequent terms count more heavily than common terms.

To see a simple example of this, search for the words (not the phrase, so no quotes):

unconscious communications

Look at the density of matches in each document on the first page of the hits. Then go to the last page of matched documents, and observe the density of matches within the documents.

A more complex search illustrates this nicely with a single page and only 15 matches:

counter*tr* w/25 “liv* out” w/25 enact*

There are a lot of word forms and variants of the words (due to the * wildcards) above that can match, but the proximity (w/25) clause limits the potential for matching. What’s interesting here though is how easily you can see the match density decrease as you view down the short list.

The end result of selecting order by rank is that the search engine’s best “guess” as to which articles are more relevant appear higher on the list than less relevant articles.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Karatsoreos, I. McEwen, B.S. (2009). Depression: What is the Role of Physiological Dysregulation and Circadian Disruption?. Neuropsychoanalysis, 11(1):70-75.

(2009). Neuropsychoanalysis, 11(1):70-75

Depression: What is the Role of Physiological Dysregulation and Circadian Disruption? Related Papers

Ilia Karatsoreos and Bruce S. McEwen

Douglas Watt and Jaak Panksepp have provided an excellent and wide-ranging review that analyzes what is missing in current theories of the etiology of depression, and they effectively present the notion that depression is a state that is rooted in misuse of an adaptive and normal response—namely, the termination of separation distress. They suggest that multiple neural systems react in order to suppress the distressful feelings associated with separation of the infant from the mother. In adulthood, according to their view, this same system acts to prevent an organism from continuously seeking out a goal that is unreachable and thus prevents a pointless waste of resources. In their view, depression can be thought of as the inappropriate engaging of this system. Thus, improper activation of the neural systems that terminate separation distress, or perhaps an incomplete shutdown of these systems, can lead to a pathological impairment of normal behavior, resulting in the individual withdrawing.

Potentially even more important is their view that depression involves the malfunction and desynchronization of multiple interacting neural and neurochemical systems. We propose that separation distress is an example of a more global dysregulation of the organism's neural and systemic ability to adapt, based on the concept of allostasis and the build-up of allostatic overload. In particular, the dysregulation of circadian rhythms can lead to an allostatic state, resulting in the dysfunction of many of the same systems that Watt & Panksepp highlight in their more specific focus on separation distress.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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