Monthly Archives: January 2005

Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: More on the proposed project to study the pain-killing effect of religion – a continuation of the research on the pain-reducing effect of soft porn perhaps ? Only seems to work for men though, sorry girls. Lovers are worse at spotting other people in […]

Are friends electric ?

The latest edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time was a discussion on the mind-body problem. This is a problem which has taxed thinkers for millenia, and concerns the relationship between our thoughts and experiences, and the biology of the brain. Thinkers have questioned whether mind and brain are distinct in any […]

Ballet and the mirror system

Beatriz Calvo-Merino and researchers from University College London have been investigating how the brain understands other people’s movements with the help of professional ballet dancers and experts in capoeira. It is thought that the human brain has a ‘mirror system’, that simulates the actions of others as we observe them. This might be the basis […]

Hacking Consciousness

Susan Greenfield was on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, talking about a new ‘centre for the mind’ at Oxford (apologies if i’ve got the exact name wrong, but i can’t find a web reference) which she will be directing. The centre will carry out cross-disciplinary research into topics like consciousness, and Prof. Greenfield […]

Inside the mind of an arsonist

Rebecca Doley, an Australian doctoral student has been studying the forensic psychology of recurrent arson. Particularly, she’s been interested in being able to ‘profile’ or identify common behaviours or experiences that are distinctive of people who set fires. Profiling usually hits the headlines when applied to murderers or sex offenders and is often used to […]

No uniqueness in the speed of the brain’s evolution?

Reports (eg) of genetic evidence that the human brain evolved usually fast may be exaggerated – see this very thorough post at language log (thanks to Cosma for the heads up). This quote seems pretty typical of the media reports: Humans went into evolutionary overdrive as their brains developed, sending them on a path that […]

Eyes wide with fear

Here’s another story related to Vaughan’s post of a couple of days ago about the amygdala and fear perception. A brain imaging study reported in the journal Science [1] found that showing the silhouettes of fearful eyes for just 17 milliseconds was enough to increase activity in the amygdala’s of human subjects – the effect […]


A reader writes: Hi, I’ve recently discovered that I can play a video game while listening to spoken word audio (podcasts). The game, AntiGrav, uses the body (via a cam which is interpreted as movements). It’s physically demanding and demands quick visual recognition and response– ie. flailing arms about and generally looking like an idiot. […]

Fear can be found in the eyes

Neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs has been working with a woman known only by the initials SM. She has damage to the amygdala on both sides of the brain, and although she can recognise emotions such as happiness, anger, surpise, sadness and disgust on people’s faces, she can’t recognise fear. Adolphs investigated exactly what SM was looking […]


I’m not sure I can resist this brain gelatin mold: Fill the plastic brain mold with a customized gelatin mix and a few hours later, out pops a life-size, anatomically correct brain. Delicious! Recipe included. [Zombie voice:] Braaaains.

Face recognition might be innnate

Researchers from the Universities of Queensland and Denver have found that newborn babies preferentially look at human faces, but not human body shapes in general. This seems to suggest that face recognition might be innate in some way and might be one aspect of our genetic inheritance which promotes social interaction and allows us to […]

Waving, not designing

I got a wave messaging power-up cover for my Nokia 3220 phone. It’s got a line of LEDs along the back of the phone, and when you wave it, you can spell out messages in the air. Check this out: (That’s me, by the way. I posted more about this to my other weblog, if […]

EVP: Voices from the other side or the inside ?

Electronic voice phenomena or EVP is the appearance of mysterious voices on tapes or recordings. They are usually hard to make out, ambiguous and hidden among the static, although some claim they are voices of spirits trying to communicate with the living. Others claim this is a result of apophenia, a psychological tendency to see […]

The High Street persuaders

The online version of the Telegraph has an article on how psychology is used in shops to persuade us to part with our hard earned cash and lists some common tricks and techniques. “The most important rule as a shopper is to keep your wits about you,” Karl says. “If you enter a retailer’s property, […]


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