Monthly Archives: August 2007

Dennett on chess and artificial intelligence

Technology Review has published an article by philosopher Daniel Dennett looking at what the development of computer chess tells us about the quest for artificial intelligence. AI and chess have an interesting and intertwined conceptual history. It used to be said that if computers could play chess, it would be a genuine example of artificial […]

Ancient Egyptian post-mortem neurosurgery

Retrospectacle has a great post that describes how the Ancient Egyptians removed the brains of the dead before mummification and notes some of their neurological knowledge. The Ancient Egyptians described a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders in their writing that would be recognisable today. One major source is the Edwin Smith papyrus, another is […]

2007-08-24 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Why are visual memories so vivid when visual memory is so limited? Cognitive Daily has another fantastic breakdown. Science and Consciousness Review has a new feature article on whether language is necessary for self-awareness. The New York Times has an article on the potential […]

Induced out-of-body experiences: Do try this at home

Science has just published two short papers where researchers induced a touch sensation that that seemed to be felt in a ‘fake’ body that appeared to be several metres in front – similar to an ‘out-of-body-experience’. The two studies were developed independently but both involved the same idea. In one study, the person was filmed […]

Drug testing whole cities

USA Today is reporting that a toxicology team have developed a method for drug testing a city’s water supply, indicating the level at which certain drugs are being used by the population. The study was reportedly led by environmental toxicologist Prof Jennifer Field and was presented at the 2006 American Chemical Society conference. The technique […]

Alzheimer’s risk gene may boost memory in young

A fascinating study published in this month’s Cerebral Cortex reports that a gene known to massively increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in later life is associated, in young people, with better memory performance and more efficient use of the brain’s memory structures. The research team, led by neuroscientist Christian Mondadori, looked at the genetics […]

Old School Neurophysiology

The Plymouth Marine Laboratory brings us footage of experiments on the giant axons of the squid — the work that brought us the action potential. Quoting: “The Squid and its Giant Nerve Fiber” was filmed in the 1970s at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England. This is the laboratory where Hodgkin and Huxley conducted experiments on […]

Metal casing, mental illness and masturbation

The image is taken from the psychiatry section of the Science and Society picture library and depicts a male anti-masturbation device from the late 19th / early 20th century, and, believe it or not, was considered an effective way of preventing insanity. Masturbation was long linked to madness in both folk and professional medicine and […]

Chasing Memory with romantic science

Frontal Cortex has just alerted me to a compelling four-part series on the quest to find the molecular basis of memory in Prof Gary Lynch’s neuroscience lab. It’s not only an account of the science behind the research, but also of the characters and human drives of the people involved. Old school Russian neuropsychologist A.R. […]

Psychological continuity and the problem of identity

Philosophy Now magazine has an interesting article on the problem of identity – how we have the impression that we are the same person, despite the fact that our personality, preferences and even cognitive abilities may change from moment to moment. It’s a problem that was most famously tackled by 17th century philosopher John Locke […]

US psychologists snub CIA but scrap total ban

After much debate at the American Psychological Association conference a resolution was passed that condemns torture, bans psychologists from taking part in certain abusive activities, but still leaves significant grey areas for participation in contested CIA interrogation techniques. The key section of the APA resolution is the following: This unequivocal condemnation includes, but is by […]

The cognitive science of magic

The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness invited some of the world’s best stage magicians along to their June conference to demonstrate how the conscious mind can be manipulated. The New York Times has just published a fantastic article on the conference and the cognitive science of magic. The symposium was entitled ‘The Magic […]

Awkward acronyms in cognitive science winners

Many thanks for everyone who sent in their entries for our AAICS (Awkward Acronyms In Cognitive Science) competition. There were many worthy entries all of which illustrated the seductive allure of the acronyms to cognitive scientists who obviously had too much coffee. In 4th place, Dr Rebecca Achtman suggested the seemingly defunct support group YAWN: […]

Why there is no such thing as internet addiction

‘Internet addiction’ doesn’t exist. It can’t, because it’s a logical impossibility, a category error, and there’s no good evidence that heavy internet use, in itself, is a risk to mental health. A paper of mine, just published in the Journal of Mental Health [pdf], describes why, but I’m going to summarise the arguments here because […]

Recursive knitted brain scan art

The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art create beautiful knitted and needlecraft brain images based on brain scans. Now neuroscientist Mark Dow has put one of the creations in a brain scanner, creating a 3D MRI of a knitted brain based on an MRI scan of a brain. Needless to say, it was discovered […]

The psychology of behavior detection officers

Time magazine is reporting that ‘behaviour detection officers’ have been introduced to US airports who have been trained to pick out potential terrorists by analysing, at least in part, facial expressions. Despite the enthusiasm of the authorities for this new approach, there’s no clear evidence that it will be effective. America’s Transport Security Administration describes […]


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