Monthly Archives: November 2005

Susan Clancy on significance of ‘alien abduction’

Susan Clancy’s recently published book Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens (ISBN 0674018796) details her five year research project into the psychology of self-confessed abductees, in an attempt to better understand unusual beliefs and experiences. This quote is from the closing pages (p154-155): The primary lesson I learned from my […]

SciAmMind on fear, eTherapy and Brian Wilson

A new issue of Scientific American Mind has hit the shelves, and with it comes two freely available articles on their website. One asking “Can We Cure Fear?” and the other on The Promise of eTherapy. Other articles, only available in the print edition to non-subscribers, include one on the use of drugs to prevent […]

Meet the chatbots

Mind Hacks already told you about Jabberwacky, the winner of this year’s Loebner prize for the chatbot that comes closest to passing the Turing Test (to pass, a judge must be unable to tell whether she’s talking to the chatbot or another human). Now you can meet the chatbots and their creators at an informal […]

Personal story of lobotomy

Public radio station NPR has an interview with Howard Dully, who received a lobotomy when he was only 12 years old from controversial psychosurgery champion Walter Freeman. Dully is shown on the left, holding one of Freeman’s operating tools that was used to punch through the bone just behind the eyes and sever the connections […]

2005-11-18 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Twin study from the University of Amsterdam suggests a genetic contribution to loneliness. What are we doing when we look away during a conversation? asks Cognitive Daily. Brain differences found in relatives of people with autism. Body image, not menopause, causes lack of desire […]

Against diagnostic checklists

Nancy Andreasen, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, says her profession have become overly dependent on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the industry’s diagnostic bible that’s now in its fourth edition, and which Andreasen helped write an earlier version of. Speaking to New Scientist magazine, Andreasen […]


The New York Times has an article about the increasing willingness of young people to ‘prescribe’ themselves, and their friends, psychiatric drugs: For a sizable group of people in their 20’s and 30’s, deciding on their own what drugs to take – in particular, stimulants, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications – is becoming the norm. […]

Own brand shopping

Research published last year showed people are more likely to marry others whose names resemble their own. Now researchers in Paris have shown this egocentric bias extends to shopping – apparently, in certain circumstances, we’re also more likely to buy products with brand names that share letters with our own name. The researchers said “We […]

BBC Material World on creativity

BBC Radio 4’s science programme The Material World has just had a special on the nature of creativity, how it can be defined, measured and encouraged. The programme discusses the differences between artistic and scientific creativity, and whether creativity necessarilly has to be productive. The first part of the programme is on nuclear fission, so […]

Keeping tabs on the english language

Language Log is a site that keeps track of language science, and the changes in the subtleties of language use. It’s updated daily, and discusses everything from curious new uses of words to archaelogical findings that shed light on the early development of language. One of my favourite long-running themes is spotting what Language Log […]

Meditation can alter structure of the brain

A recently reported brain-scanning study has found evidence that sustained meditation alters the physical structure of the brain by increasing the thickness of the grey matter. The researchers, led by neuroscientist Sarah Lazar, scanned the brains of 20 people with long-term experience of meditation, and compared them with 20 other, non-meditating people. Brain regions associated […]

Insanity by consensus

…the original riddle remains: is the world mad, or is civilization psychopathogenic? – the question, of course, posed by Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents (1926). And if a civilized society is thus disordered, what right has it to pass judgement on the ‘insane’? Regarding his committal to Bethlem, the Restoration playwrite Nathaniel Lee reputedly declared: […]

Tinfoil hats tested for anti mind-control properties

Engineers from MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department have tested the radiation absorbing properties of tin-foil hats, often represented as stopping microwave based ‘mind control’ technology. The abstract of the study suggests describes the study, and suggests some worringly conclusions: Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of […]

2005-11-11 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: An article on why people believe in alien abduction, and a link to an online study on unusual sleep experiences. Wired on recent studies suggesting ritual users of the hallucinogen Peyote show no mental or neurological impairment. Researchers find brain differences in how males […]

Depression and the low serotonin myth

Open-access medical journal PLoS Medicine has published an essay on the popular but poorly supported claim that depression is ’caused’ by low serotonin and that some antidepressant drugs correct this ‘chemical imbalance’. The essay particularly focuses on a class of antidepressant drugs called ‘selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors‘ or SSRIs, that increases the amount of the […]

Nature Neuroscience launch blog

They say mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, now the Editors at New York based review journal Nature Neuroscience have launched a blog called ‘Action Potential‘. In their words: Action Potential is a blog by the editors of Nature Neuroscience – and a forum for our readers, authors and the entire neuroscience community. We’ll […]


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