Monthly Archives: December 2007

Encephalon 38 flies in

The 38th edition of psychology and neuroscience writing carnival Encephalon has just arrived online and this fortnight it’s ably hosted by Not Exactly Rocket Science. A couple of my favourites include an excellent article (how did I miss it before?) from Pure Pedantry reviewing the evidence that show mental illness is a poor predictor of […]

The problem of believing in belief

Sam Harris is better known as a leading atheist, but he’s also completing a PhD in cognitive neuroscience and a forthcoming study by Harris is a flawed but important contribution to how we understand the neuropsychology of belief. Harris and his colleagues asked participants to respond to a number of statements with buttons presses indicating […]

Alcohol, the cause and solution to all of life’s problems

As the Christmas season is upon us, what better time to think about alcohol, aptly described by Homer Simpson as the “the cause and solution to all of life’s problems”. The British Medical Journal has a wonderful article that tells you everything you wanted to know about alcohol (but were too drunk to ask) in […]

Cognitive dissonance reduction

Following on from my earlier post about the way psychologists look at the world, let me tell you a story which I think illustrates very well the tendency academic psychologists have for reductionism. It’s a story about a recent paper on the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, and about a discussion of that paper by a […]

Experiment with a virtual neuron

The Children’s Hospital Boston have created a fantastic ‘virtual neuron‘ which allows you to explore the basics of neural transmission with an interactive flash demo. Strictly speaking, of course, it’s designed for children, but it’s remarkably good fun whatever your age. Once you’ve got the demo window up, the options at the top of the […]

Man hammers nail into head every week for 11 weeks

I just found this jaw-dropping case study of a man who banged 11 nails into his head while sadly quite distressed and psychotic. The X-ray images are striking on their own, and what is even more astounding is that he made a full recovery. Penetrating head injury in planned and repetitive deliberate self-harm. Mayo Clinic […]

From the nose to the genitals and back again

Recently, the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has had some interesting letters on a theory from times past – the nasogenital reflex theory – that says that the nervous system makes a direct link between the erectile tissue in the genitals and the nose. The nose has tissue which, like the genitals, can […]

Tortured minds: psychiatry and human rights

ABC Radio National’s All the the Mind has just concluded a two part series on human rights and psychiatry that looks at the role of mental health professionals in military interrogations, and the rights of psychiatric detainees. The first part is based at the World Psychiatric Association conference in Australia and interviews several psychiatrists about […]

Has shyness been transformed into a mental illness?

Bookslut interviews author Christopher Lane, who argues in a new book that shyness has been transformed in the mental illness ‘social phobia’, partly due to it being used as a political football during a time of theoretical upheaval in psychiatry. Social phobia is a type of anxiety that is triggered in social situations. It can […]

CT in the Sky with Diamonds

Inkling Magazine has discovered a curious episode in the history of music and neuroscience where The Beatles helped to fund the development of the CT scanner. If you ever suffer a head injury, you’re likely to given a CT head scan as its a quick, convenient way of look for damage to brain tissue. In […]

2007-12-14 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Novelist A.S. Byatt (who has had a long-standing interesting in brain science) writes an article in The Times arguing that ‘neuroscience is helping us to understand how art works ‚Äì and it may offer us a way out of narcissism’. We perceive music differently […]

Kooky cool on the catwalk

The New York Times has an interesting piece on Heather Kuzmich one of the recent contestants on reality TV show America‚Äôs Next Top Model who reportedly has Asperger’s syndrome. Asperger’s syndrome is essentially High Functioning Autism (the difference in diagnosis lies in a fairly academic point about the age at which someone acquires language), meaning […]

Fighting the tide of prison suicides

The Boston Globe has produced a powerful video documentary and article series on prison suicide and mental illness. Treating mental illness in prison is a complex business. As Time reported earlier this year, the rates of mental illness are much higher among offenders, confinement is known to worsen mental health, and prison treatment facilities are […]

Scanning psychopaths

Today’s Nature has a great article [pdf] on the neuroscience of psychopaths, as investigated by an ingenious study being run by a group of Dutch researchers. Although there is a higher number of psychopaths among violent criminals, a psychopath is not necessarily someone who is violent. The term describes someone who is considered to lack […]

What IQ doesn‚Äôt tell you about race

IQ has suddenly become a hot topic again, owing to a certain DNA-discovering Nobel laureate putting his foot in his mouth and the publication of a couple of books on the subject. Malcolm Gladwell has written a great article for the New Yorker that summarises many of the recent arguments and suggests why comparing IQ […]

What it’s all about

We’ve learned to tie into every organ in the human body but one. The brain! The brain is what life is all about. Star Trek doctor Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy from the episode entitled The Menagerie.


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