Monthly Archives: June 2007

Unique brain energy

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” Wise words from the purveyor of the most delightful nonsense, Dr Seuss.

Mind the gap: science and the insanity defence

Reason Magazine has an excellent article on why our knowledge about the psychology and neuroscience of mental illness doesn’t really help when trying argue for or against the insanity defence in court. The insanity defence concerns whether a person accused of a crime should be considered legally responsible. Some of the first legal criteria for […]

Personalised drugs

The New York Times has an interesting opinion piece on using genetic tests to determine which psychiatric drugs will be most effective and least problematic. It is starting to become known that people with certain genes or sets of genes react to drugs differently. These could be genes related to aspects of brain function, or, […]

Are we computers, or are computers us?

Philosopher Dr Pete Mandik has published an interesting thought on his blog that questions whether the common ‘computer metaphor’ used to describe the human mind is really a metaphor at all. Cognitive psychology typically creates models of the mind based on information processing theories. In other words, the mind and brain are considered to do […]

2007-06-22 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Science reports that forced donations activate brain areas associated with altruism. The New York Times reports that half of all continuing medical education courses in the United States are now paid for by drug companies and are often little more than marketing exercises. The […]

Next step brains: Evolution or optimisation?

This week’s edition of ABC Radio National’s opinion programme Ockham’s Razor has Dr Peter Lavelle speculating about a future when computers will match or outstrip the human brain. Taking a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach, Lavelle looks to a time when we’ll extend our capabilities with electronics and cybernetic expansions. But he […]

The attractions of complex plastic bags

Another snippet from the Journal of Forensic Sciences, this time from a post-mortem case report from the July edition: “We here report the case of a 34-year-old man who died due to asphyxia, secondary to body wrapping in the largest and most complex plastic bag ever involved in a published case of autoerotic death.” People […]

Labelling emotions reduces their impact

A brain scanning study has found that naming emotions reduces the intensity of emotion processing in the brain, possibly outlining a brain network responsible for the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. A team led by psychologist Dr Matthew Lieberman brain-scanned participants while they looked at pictures of faces that had different […]

Profiling serial killers and other violent criminals

I just noticed that the January edition of the Journal of Forensic Sciences is freely available online, which contains psychological case reports on two serial killers and a football hooligan. The journal is always a fascinating read, as it combines academic papers on everything from molecular analysis to psychological profiling. The psychology case reports are […]

Pugilistic Discussion Syndrome

The Wired Alt-Text blog has an amusing list of made-up diagnoses for internet users, covering all the major pathologies of online interaction. This is my favourite: Pugilistic Discussion Syndrome In this curious form of aphasia, the subject is unable to distinguish between a discussion and a contest. The subject approaches any online forum as a […]

What aliens taught us about self-justification

Newsweek has a brief but interesting article on the new generation of research focused on cognitive dissonance – our desire to reconcile ill-fitting beliefs and actions which can lead us to self-justify in the most curious ways. The theory is one of the most important in psychology but has a rather unusual origin. It originated […]

The pathologies of social rejection

Today’s Washington Post has an article on the psychology of rejection in children’s social circles and its possible long-term effects on behaviour and mental health. It comes in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre and it aims to make sense of bullying and rejection by looking at scientific studies in the area. These have […]

Homosexuality in body, brain and behaviour

The New York Magazine has an in-depth article on the science of sexual orientation and whether the biological factors which may make someone more likely to be gay, also make them more likely to appear gay to others. There are now a range of established findings that suggest that gay men are likely to have […]

Mirror touches

Nature reports on a recently discovered form of synaesthesia where affected individuals actually feel a sensation when they observe someone else being touched. Synaesthesia is a condition where senses become crossed, so people might seeing colours when they encounter numbers, or tastes when they hear certain words. This new form of synaesthesia was found by […]

Encephalon 25 hits the tubes

Edition 25 of psychology and neuroscience writing carnival Encephalon has just been published on PsyBlog. A couple of my favourites includes GrrlScientist on why smart people don’t all make smart choices and Memoirs of a Postgrad on whether AI systems will need bodies to be truly intelligent. It has all the latest on the last […]

Natalie Portman, cognitive neuroscientist

Natalie Portman is best known for her roles in Hollywood movies like Star Wars, Cold Mountain and V for Vendetta. What is less known is that she was co-author of a scientific paper on the neuroscience of child development. This is about her research. Portman, whose real name is Natalie Hershlag, left acting to pursue […]


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