Monthly Archives: December 2006

More on measuring happiness

Tom alerted me to a largely neglected psychometric measure of happiness designed by Michael Leunig that was sadly absent from the article discussed in an earlier post. It is a truly objective measure, but one I suspect that will not be readily adopted by politicians.

Marvin Minsky on love

Artificial intelligence pioneer and cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky whispers sweet nothings to The Boston Globe in an interview about emotion: What, in your view, is love? There’s short-term infatuation, where someone gets strongly attracted to someone else, and that’s probably very often a turning-off of certain things rather than something extra: It’s a mental state […]

Synapse 13 arrives

Issue 13 of The Synapse psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has appeared online, hosted this week by Neurocontrarian, with the latest in home grown mind and brain news. Also comes the news that the Synapse and Encephalon carnivals are combining forces in the future, so the new combined version will be released fortnightly. This issue […]

How economists measure happiness

Slate has a short article on the intriguing question of how economists measure happiness. This has become a key issue this year, as the two leading political parties in the UK, and the kingdom of Bhutan, have cited ‘happiness’ as a national goal. Happiness, otherwise known as ‘subjective well-being’ (sounds more scientific doesn’t it?), is […]

Magic mushrooms for OCD

BBC News is carrying a curious story about a study on the use of psilocybin (the main active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’) as a possible treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder, otherwise known as OCD. Despite how these stories usually appear in the media, this research isn’t particularly unique. A steady trickle of studies on the potential […]

Autoerotic entertainment

The medical literature is a source of endless fascination. As well as charting the sure-but-steady progress of medical science, it also keeps tabs on the more unusual aspects of human behaviour. PubMed is the world’s medical research database, and I’ve found endless ways of entertaining myself with this seemingly starched and functional research tool. One […]

Work, play and the vagaries of regret

The New York Times has a piece on thought-provoking research suggesting that while we are glad we resisted the temptation to party in the short-term, in the long-term we regret the missed opportunity for enjoyment. They say that no-one on their death bed says “I wish I’d spent more time in the office”. A study […]

Baby brain wear

New York-based designer AbracaDebra has created baby clothing with brain prints emblazoned across the front. Pictured on the left is her all-in-one baby onesie for the neuroscience obsessed young scientist in your life. She also makes a brain print bib just waiting to be dribbled on, probably at the sight of a tasty unconditioned stimulus.

Wittgenstein and wisdom

British philosophy magazine Philosophy Now has a special edition on that most psychological of philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein, with several of the feature articles freely available online. Wittgenstein is known as much for his character as his philosophy, and for those not familiar with his life Tim Madigan’s short introduction is a good place to start. […]

‘Mass hysteria’ closes school

Yesterday, ‘mass hysteria’ closed a school in Barnsley. According to an article in The Times, 30 or so pupils began feeling ill after watching a widely used biology video, and as other pupils heard about the malady, the effect spread. The school officials eventually gathered everyone together in the school hall suspecting a gas leak, […]

Through the eyes of a psychopath

A recent brain imaging study has suggested that criminal psychopaths do not show the normal neurological reaction to seeing fear in other people’s faces. Contrary to the media depiction, a diagnosis of clinical psychopathy does not necessarily describe someone who enjoys sadistic violence, but instead describes an aggressive or antisocial person who also seems to […]

2006-12-08 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: SciAm has an article on research looking at the mathematical structure of neuroscience. Much more at this pdf. Antidepressants can can improve your sense of taste, reports New Scientist. Obviously, this more than makes up for the antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. The Neurocritic discusses research […]

The future exists today. It’s just unevenly distributed

If you were wondering where it had got to, it looks like the annual ‘brain scan predicts schizophrenia’ story has arrived. If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic, have a look back at some past classics. It’s not that these studies don’t show any predictive value of brain scans, but so far, none have proved reliable […]

Think fast feel great

Cognitive Daily has a great review of an intriguing study that suggests that thinking quickly could boost your mood. People with mania, a state of uncontrollably ‘high’ mood, often say they have racing thoughts, and people with depression sometimes feel as if their thoughts are slowed, impaired or sluggish. Psychologists Emily Pronin and Daniel Wegner […]

Encephalon 12 is here

Francophiles delight! Issue 12 of psychology and neuroscience writing carnival Encephalon has arrived on French cognitive science blog AlphaPsy. If you’re looking for happiness, want the key to Huntingdon’s disease, or want to blame it on your hippocampus, issue 12 is the place to be. Link to Encephalon Issue 12.

Phineas Gage and the rod of iron

The Neurophilosopher has written a great introduction to the history and science of Phineas Gage – one of the most famous cases in the history of neurology. In 1848, Gage was a railroad worker who had the sort of job that sounds like it was designed for the Darwin awards: he was paid to drill […]


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