Monthly Archives: July 2007

Cognitive reserves and staying sharp

SharpBrains has a great interview with neuropsychologist Prof Yaakov Stern who discusses his research on maintaining a healthy brain and gives plenty of great advice for keeping your edge throughout life. Stern talks about the cognitive and neural ‘reserve theories’ which argue that the mind and brain have a certain tolerance to decline and damage […]

Renaissance advice on mind and mood

A couple of quotes from the 16th and 17th centuries that still hold true today. The first from Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebooks, dated 1508: Irons rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind. Which reminded me of Robert Burton’s […]

Are attention and consciousness the same thing?

Psychologists have often wondered whether attention and consciousness are the same thing. Can we only be conscious of things we pay attention to? And can we attend to things we’re not conscious of? A paper [pdf] published last year suggests that they are, in fact, separate mental processes. William James, one of the founder of […]

Autism, honesty and the capacity to deceive

Online magazine InCharacter has an article on what autism can tell us about honesty and deception, by autism researcher Prof Simon Baron-Cohen. People with autism or related conditions are often poor at both deception and recognising deception in others. It’s not always the case, but it’s quite a common attribute. Baron-Cohen’s article explores what we […]

Lying on the Couch with Masud Khan

I’m currently reading Irvin Yalom’s novel about psychoanalysts, Lying on the Couch (ISBN 0060928514), and have noticed that a key character bears a striking resemblance to one of the most controversial people in the history of psychoanalysis, Masud Khan. Psychoanalysis is both the talking therapy and the set of theories about the human mind that […]

Prototype of new brain scanning technology

Technology Review has an article on a prototype MRI scanner that could vastly improve our ability to measure brain function. It uses a lattice of small coils positioned around the head rather than large coils you lie inside. MRI uses very strong magnets that align the spin of the atoms in your body. It then […]

Spinning silhouette illusion

I’ve just found this ‘spinning silhouette‘ visual illusion which took ages to take effect but when it did it was so striking I thought at first it was faked. The idea is that you keep looking and the woman suddenly ‘flips’ and seems to spin in the opposite direction. It’s very impressive when it happens, […]

The necessity of the brain: a slight return

This week’s edition of medical journal The Lancet has a brief case report of a 44-year-old man who was discovered to have a severely distorted brain, due to it being displaced by a build-up of fluid. The man’s MRI scans are shown on the right and you can clearly see that huge sections of the […]

Schizophrenia in 15th century Islamic medicine

There’s an interesting exchange in this month’s American Journal of Psychiatry where two researchers note that there is no mention of any condition that resembles schizophrenia in the key 15th century Islamic medical text Cerrahiyyetu‚Äôl-Haniyye (Imperial Surgery). A reply highlights the fact that it may be because medicine was only practicised on people who volunteered […]

Brain haemorrhage inspires creativity

The Times has an interesting account of a man who experienced a massive surge in creativity after suffering a brain haemorrhage. Walking into a neat red-brick semi on a housing estate in Birkenhead I am faced with a glittering-eyed tiger. His stare is mercifully benign and his swirling surroundings cover the whole of the inside […]

2007-07-20 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: NPR has a special radio programme on an Iraqi psychiatrist, now resident in the USA, looking back to his work in the war-torn state. OmniBrain gathers together a whole list of neuroscience sites for kids. Yay! New Scientist reports on how a new brain […]

‘Paranoid’ political donation contested in court

A ¬£10 million donation to the UK Conservative party, the biggest in its history, is being contested in the high court because the late donor was allegedly psychotic, believing that Margaret Thatcher would save the world from a conspiracy of demons and satanic forces. The donor was Branislav Kostic, a Belgrade-born businessman who made millions […]

LSD assisted psychotherapy study to start in Switzerland

The Royal Society of Chemistry reports that a research project investigating the potential benefits of LSD assisted psychotherapy for people with terminal illnesses has been given the go-ahead by the Swiss authorities. The Multidisciplanary Association for Psychedelic Studies, part funders of the study, have more about it on their website, including copies of the ethics […]

Psychologist wins world poker championships

Jerry Yang, a 29 year-old psychologist and social worker who works for a fostering agency, has won a cool $8.25 million at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Yang put some of his success down to his training in psychology, but do psychologists make better poker players? There’s no direct evidence that they […]

Parapsychology, laughter and military neuroscience

BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind just broadcast a wonderfully eclectic edition with pieces on parapsychology and why people hold paranormal beliefs, the psychology of laughter, and the military applications of neuroscience. Dr Caroline Watt and Prof Chris French discuss both the current boom in scientific parapsychology research and the psychology of paranormal belief. […]

An artistic impression of alcoholic delirium

The picture is from this month’s British Journal of Psychiatry and is entitled ‘Memory image of acute alcoholic delirium’. It was included in a 1919 book of cases studies of people with alcoholic delirium, otherwise known as delirium tremens or the DTs, and was drawn by a patient to communicate their hallucinatory experiences. Delirium is […]


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