Monthly Archives: June 2007

Nerve signals may be shock wave riders

Wired has a good break down of theory that says that nerve cells don’t work on electricity as we assume, but instead transmit signals using pressure waves, and crucially, this might explain how anaesthetics work. The idea that nerve cells send their signals as pressure waves is not brand new. Known as the Soliton model, […]

Uncanny valley – the movie

The Age has a brief article looking at how film makers are trying to avoid the ‘uncanny valley‘ – the phenomenon where artificially created characters seem more unnervingly odd as they are made more life-like. The idea is that we’re so used to picking up the subtlies of human appearance that android-like figures seem cold […]

The mind is a metaphor

Dr Brad Pasanek is a literature researcher at the University of Southern California who has created a database of metaphors of the mind used in 18th century English literature. It allows you to search by everything from standard keywords to the politics of the author and has over 8,000 entries. As illustrated by Douwe Draaisma’s […]

A window on the mind

BBC Radio 4 science programme Frontiers just had a special edition on using brain scans to read the mind. There’s been various reports in the media about research studies that have been able to identify subjective mental states or intentions from patterns on brain scans, mainly reported as a sort of ‘mind reading’ technology. While […]

Legal drug paraphenalia

Wired magazine has a slide show of the bribes promotional gifts given out at last month’s American Psychiatric Association by pharmaceutical companies trying to get doctors to prescribe their drugs. It’s all fairly tacky stuff but they’re expensive enough to be motivating. These sorts of things are handed out willy-nilly by drugs reps and your […]


Lie Lab is a three-part TV series where they use the not-very-accurate brain scan lie detection method to test high profile people who have been accused of lying. The programme quotes a 90% accuracy for fMRI lie detection, but this is a best estimate and has been found in group studies, in lab conditions, where […]

2007-06-08 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: A Polish man wakes up from a 19 year ‘coma’ and is remarkably functional (with video). New Scientist reports that folic acid could protect against strokes. From last year’s NeuroFest: A puppet show about autism called ‘The Boy Who Wanted to be a Robot’ […]

Know blood, know the brain

The Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism publishes cutting edge scientific research on brain scanning and blood flow, and it’s just put a collection of some of the key papers from the last few years online, for free. It is particularly important that neuroscientists understand blood flow because this is what PET and fMRI, […]

Learning field sense

Wired has an article on ‘field sense’ – a sportsman’s ability to infer seemingly unknowable information from subtle perceptual cues. This means that some sportsman appear to have a ‘sixth sense’ of where players are on the field, or can work out where a ball is likely to go before it is struck. This tends […]

Dissolved and synthetic space

Developing Intelligence has an interesting look at a brain-injured patient from the medical literature who can identify objects, but can’t locate them. RM suffered two strokes, damaging both sides of his occipito-parietal cortex (see the image above). This region of the brain is known to be important for spatial computations; this pattern of damage will […]

Neurosurgical removal of knife in head

The picture is a man with a knife blade embedded in his head. It’s from a case report in the Croatian Medical Journal by a group of neurosurgeons who reported how it happened, and how they safely removed it. The man was stabbed in the head by his daughter, who’s ominously described only as a […]

Child Ritalin use doubles after divorce

A study just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reports that children are twice as likely to be prescribed Ritalin after their parents have divorced. Ritalin is the trade name for the amphetamine-like drug methylphenidate. It is typically prescribed for ADHD, a diagnosis which describes problems with staying focused, impulsiveness and / or hyperactivity. […]

Encephalon 24 is released

The 24th edition of psychology and neuroscience writing carnival Encephalon has just been published at psychology blog The Phineas Gage Fan Club. A couple of my favourites include a post on deep brain electrode recordings from the human nucleus accumbens and a post on a psychological sex differences study run on 200,000 participants (wow). For […]

Innate kindness and the moral brain

The Washington Post published an interesting article last week on research suggesting that human traits like generosity and altruism may be innate. It describes a number of experiments which are tackling the relatively new field of ‘moral neuroscience’, which aims to understand how the brain is involved in moral decision-making. What is interesting is that […]

Insecurity service

Despair Inc has this fantastic parody of the t-shirts worn by private security firms at concerts, gigs and public events. So now you can wear the t-shirt and advertise yourself as a member of the insecurity team. The company makes some fantastic parodies of corporate motivational merchandise, including a great range of demotivating posters. Link […]

The rewards of being female

A recently published study has found that females show greater brain activation to uncertain rewards during the most fertile stage of the menstrual cycle, perhaps explaining why women dress more attractively and have altered sexual preferences during this time. The dopamine system is known to be involved in reward processing, and one of the current […]


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