Monthly Archives: December 2006

Hobbes, the first functionalist?

If you thought that the founders of the Artificial Intelligence movement were the first to think that intelligence was just the product of computation, think again: When man reasoneth, he does nothing else but conceive a sum total, from addition of parcels….For reason, in this sense, is nothing but reckoning Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapter 5 […]

Ketamine dreams

An excerpt from a letter to this month’s British Journal of Psychiatry on the effects of ketamine and the similarities and differences with psychosis, by Drs James Stone and Lyn Pilowsky: “We also recently studied healthy volunteers following ketamine administration… Most experienced severe distortions of time, believing that a minute was several hours in duration. […]

Good and evil in the practice of neuroscience

ABC Radio’s The Philosopher’s Zone had an edition last week on ‘neuroethics’ – the branch of moral philosophy that deals with the difficult issues raised by our increasing ability to manipulate the brain. For example, a lab at Georgia Tech have created The Hybrot, a robot controlled by the brain cells of a rat. Some […]

Drinking the milk of paradise

The opening of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan: In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree : Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round : And there were gardens bright […]

Psychic epilepsy healing

Neurologists of the world rejoice. The chap at Extrasensory Epilepsy Healing can cure epilepsy with the power of his mind, and takes all types of credit cards over the internet. If this isn’t revelation enough, it turns out that epilepsy, long thought to be a neurological disorder, is actually a problem with the pancreas. If […]

Too Much Too Young?

The New York Times has published part 3 in its series on child mental health with a look at how psychiatric drugs are being prescribed to children, and the evidence on their benefits and side-effects. We featured the publication of the first two parts in the series on Mind Hacks. These looked at the impact […]

Teaching computers to climb the tower of babel

Subtleties are important in language. I learnt this by using the phrase ‘tengo 26 anos’ in Spanish where I should have used ‘tengo 26 a√±os’. As I discovered, the difference is slight but surprisingly meaningful. While a computer is fooled by my error, a Spanish speaker would likely find it hilarious, but would get my […]

Metaphors of mind in the history of the novel

The Psychologist has just made an article available online that examines the history of how novelists have used metaphors to describe the human mind. The article also tackles how this has reflected our understanding of the mind itself. Mind-metaphors have always reflected dominant scientific ideas, and psychologists and cognitive scientists have always used metaphors in […]

Cognitive Daily starts weekly podcasts

Cognitive science blog Cognitive Daily has started a new weekly podcast of their fantastic summaries of scientific studies. The first is a 10-minute run through of two recent articles: one on a study that looked at whether police were more likely to shoot at black suspects, and the other on why people with ‘tone deafness’ […]

All in the Mind on brain-computer interfaces

This week’s edition of ABC Radio All in the Mind is a special investigation into brain-computer interfaces, the science of putting computer equipment under direct neurocognitive control. This could either be done by non-invasively reading brain activity, or in the case of people with disorders that affect their movement, by implanting electrode arrays into the […]

Boot camp for the brain

Scientific American has an article on military research programmes that are attempting to optimise the brain for the next generation ‘warfighter’ – the US army’s jargon for the modern solider. The article is by Dr Jonathan Moreno and is largely made up of excerpts from his new book Mind Wars (ISBN 1932594167) which we featured […]

What caused Nietzsche’s insanity and death?

A paper just published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica reconsiders the insanity and death of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who is commonly thought to have died of neurosyphilis. In contrast, the authors of the new study suggest that Nietzsche died of frontotemporal dementia – a type of dementia that specifically affects the frontal and temporal lobes. While […]

Living rough in body and mind

A study on homeless people admitted to a psychiatric emergency clinic has reported that a third have active psychosis. The study, published in the medical journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, was conducted in Bordeaux state hospital in France. That study also found that most of the homeless people admitted to the clinic had already […]

Surgical removal of half the brain – video

The Neurophilosopher has found an amazing video of a neurosurgical procedure to remove one hemisphere of the brain in a child – a treatment for otherwise untreatable epilepsy. The procedure is known as a hemispherectomy and remarkably, not only can children survive this operation, but in some cases, can graduate high school and university when […]

2006-12-01 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Fascinating article on why the study of watch-makers has linked ambidexterity to self-reflection. Slate has a skeptical article on the recent research on the neuroscience of ‘speaking in tongues’. Psyblog collects a series of recent internet writing on emotion as part of an ongoing […]


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