Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die!

The classic 1960’s B-movie The Brain That Wouldn’t Die has fallen into the public domain and is now available to download or to watch online. It’s another classic story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl in terrible car crash, boy keeps girl’s head alive in neuroscience lab while looking for attractive new body. Needless […]

Inside the psychotic world of Grand Theft Auto

A brief article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2001 reported the case of a young man who suffered delusions that he was a player inside a computer game. The game isn’t mentioned by name, but it seems to be Grand Theft Auto. The authors of the case study point […]

Can’t compute the wood for the trees

Computer scientist David Gelernter has written an in-depth article for Technology Review where he criticises the possibility of creating artificial consciousness, but has high hopes for unconscious artificial intelligence. My case for the near-impossibility of conscious software minds resembles what others have said. But these are minority views. Most AI researchers and philosophers believe that […]

2007-06-29 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Couple of good radio shows on philosophy: In Our Time on the history of ‘common sense philosophy’ and The Philosopher’s Zone has a special on the late Richard Rorty. When do children think wishes can come true? Mixing Memory examines a psychology study that […]

The hardest cut: Penfield and the fight for his sister

In 1935, world renowned neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield published three remarkable case studies describing the psychological effects of frontal lobe surgery. They remain a fascinating insight into the link between brain and behaviour, but one case was unlike anything Penfield had tackled before. It described the fight to save the life of his only sister.  

Is bigotry a mental illness?

The Psychiatric Times has an interesting article discussing whether bigotry should be classified as a mental illness. The author concludes no, but the discussion gives an important insight into how we decide what is a mental illness and what is not. Most people might think that an opinion, no matter how disagreeable, shouldn’t get someone […]

Kidman new face of brain game, will it sharpen the mind?

As a sure sign that cognitive improvement games have gone mainstream, Nicole Kidman has been announced as the new face of Nintendo’s latest ‘brain training’ title. The idea that mental training will actually help boost your mental skills is relatively new. It was traditionally thought that the mind and brain just start losing their edge […]

Formula 1 and Iraqi psychiatry on AITM new series

A new series of BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind has just kicked off with the first programme investigating the psychology of Formula 1 drivers and including an interview with an Iraqi psychiatrist involved in rebuilding the country’s mental health services. The programme talks to Jenson Button, Honda’s top driver, Tony Lycholat, Head of […]

Psychiatrists top list of drug maker gift recipients

The New York Times continues its theme of investigating psychiatry and mental health with an article noting that US psychiatrists receive drug company ‘gifts’ worth the largest amount among all the medical specialities. The data is only from two states, because they are the only ones which have gone public with their records of payments […]

Enough about you doctor, what about me?

The New York Times reports on a new study that examined how doctors disclose information about themselves during patient consultations. The study found that disclosures are usually for the benefit of the doctor and rarely help the patient. The study recorded 113 doctor-patient interactions and analysed the conversation for themes, timing, effect and number of […]

Harnessing humans for subconscious computing

Technology Review has an article on using humans as part of a digital face recognition system. Uniquely, you don’t have to take part in any deliberate recognition, the system uses electrical readings to automatically measure the response of the brain – even if you’re not aware of it. The system, developed by Microsoft Research, takes […]

Tooth marks reveal childhood trauma

Childhood stress can interfere with the development of the teeth to the extent that a traumatic experience leaves a recognisable line in the tooth enamel that remains as a record of past traumas. I discovered this when reading about a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences [pdf] that used […]

Why don’t ethics professors behave better?

If you spent your whole life trying to work out how to be ethical, you would think you’d be more moral in everyday life. Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel has found that this isn’t the case, and asks the question “Why don’t ethics professors behave better than they do?”. Initially, this was based on a hunch, but […]

Law, ethics, brain scans and mind reading

ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind has just broadcast the first of a two-part series on using neuroscience to read the mind. The first programme investigates whether neuroscience can tell us anything about criminality and violence, and what role brain-based evidence will play in the court room. The programme talks to many of the […]

Encoding memory: from a free issue of SciAm

To celebrate the launch of a redesign, Scientific American have made the July edition freely available online as a pdf file. The cover story examines the search for how the brain encodes memories. The issue is only available online until the end of June (one more week!) so you’ll need to be quick, but it’s […]

Oldest children have highest IQ: a family effect?

Science has just published a study of almost a quarter-of-million people providing strong evidence that oldest children have slightly higher IQs, and, most interestingly, the evidence suggests that this isn’t a biological effect – it’s likely to do with family environment and upbringing. In fact, first-born children are known to have a number of psychological […]


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