Monthly Archives: December 2006

Putting the fun in dysfunctional

I’ve just found an interesting letter to the British Journal of Psychiatry by A. J. McBride who noted the high level of mental illness in professional comedians. Perhaps most well-known is the British comedian Spike Milligan who suffered from bipolar disorder and was frequently admitted to hospital. In fact, a ward at the Maudsley Hospital […]

the society of mind

Marvin Minksy, one of the founding figures in Artificial Intelligence, in his Society of Mind (1985): People ask if machines have souls. And I ask back whether souls can learn. It does not seem a fair exchange – if souls can live for endless time and yet not use that time to learn – to […]

Art for all senses

Seed Magazine has an article on Marcia Smilack – a photographer and video artist with a rare form of synaesthesia in which all her senses intermingle. Smilack aims to capture this experience in her work and express it for people without the condition. The article discusses why art may be such a good expression of […]

Prison officers issued knives to ‘cut suicide rate’

In a wonderfully twisted solution to poor mental health care, prison officers in UK’s Winchester Prison are being issued knives in an attempt to reduce suicide rates by allowing them to cut down prisoners they find hanging in their cells. Mental health care in prison is notoriously bad (a recent reported noted one third of […]

Beautiful images from PsicoCaf√©

I’ve stumbled across a wonderful collection of mind and brain artwork, collected by the author of the Italian website PsicoCaf√©. Unfortunately, my Italian isn’t what it should be but the site’s blog is updated daily, has a podcast and video section, and, not surprisingly, looks beautiful. If your language doesn’t hold out, however, the image […]

The buzzing blooming life of William James

The Boston Globe has a review of a new biography of William James. He is often called the ‘father of modern psychology’ and is equally well-known for his work in philosophy. Not quite as well-known is his drug-experimentation, fascination with parapsychology and interest in numerous women. It’s almost a clich√© that psychology talks will start […]

Confabulated Memory t-shirt

Online t-shirt retailer and design free-for-all Threadless have just released a t-shirt based on the theme of ‘confabulated memory’. In neuropsychology, ‘confabulation’ usually refers to a condition where people produce streams of false memories. It is distinguished from lying in that affected people do not seem to be intentionally trying to deceive. In fact, they […]

Understanding burnout (Santa take note)

“In a culture where work can be a religion, burnout is its crisis of faith”. The New York Magazine has an in-depth article on the psychology of burn-out. Burnout is not its own category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It’s not something that can be treated pharmacologically; it is not considered […]

20 years at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit

The Psychologist have just made an article available online that looks at the history an ongoing work of Ediburgh University’s Koestler Parapsychology Unit. It is one of the few academic parapsychology units in the world and the unit takes pride in a strictly scientific approach to studying the paranormal. As well as studying whether there […]

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

Some dialogue from the novel A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines (ISBN 1400040302) by physicist Janna Levin. In this passage, Kurt G√∂del discusses his objections to Alan Turing’s work on whether the mind can be completely described as a series of computations with his friend Oskar Morgenstern. “If I die, you must promise to publish […]

Brain science writing winners announced

The winners for the 2006 National Brain-Science Writing Prize have been announced with the full text of all the winning entries available online. The first prize for a newspaper article written about the brain was awarded to Rebecca Poole for her article on false memories. The first prize for an article written by a researcher […]

Social networks and counter-insurgency

The New Yorker has a fascinating article on a new generation of anthropologist military strategists, such as David Kilcullen and Montgomery McFate, who argue that social networks, not ideologies, are key to understanding terrorist campaigns. Like Kilcullen, [McFate] was drawn to the study of human conflict and also its reality: at Yale, where she received […]

Without music

Amusia is like colour blindness for music. Affected people can’t grasp the subtleties and structure of music despite having having intact hearing. The problems seems to be with the relevant auditory brain systems. BBC Radio 4 science programme Frontiers recently had an edition on this curious condition that explores the neuroscience of why this occurs […]

Delusions and insight on ABC All in the Mind

The excellent ABC Radio All in the Mind has just had an edition on delusions and insight – examining why people not only have wildly unusual psychotic experiences, but also why they don’t realise these experiences are in any way strange or unusual. Several people are interviewed who have experienced delusions and psychosis, as well […]

Happy seasonal festival of your adopted social context

The Christmas holidays are approaching and I suspect updates to Mind Hacks will be a little sporadic over the next week or two. Hopefully we’ll manage some posts but I’m not sure how internet access will work out as we travel about spreading good cheer (or, alternatively, we might just be travelling about). Enjoy yourself, […]

Everything begins with an EEG

The most important application of brain-machine interfaces is to allow paralysed people the ability to control their environment. The second most important application, is, of course, to create psychedelic rave visuals to accompany pumping acid techno. Mind VJ is a project by Lenara Verle and Marlon Barrios-Solano that has filled this neglected area of research […]

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