Monthly Archives: January 2008

Artistic assault

This is a completely amazing case report published in Acta Neurochirurgica about a man who managed to get a paintbrush stuck in his brain during a fight. The most astounding thing is that from the outside it only looked like he had a tiny cut on the eye. Artistic assault: an unusual penetrating head injury […]

Mind, body and goal: the embodied cognition revolution

The Boston Globe just published an excellent article on ‘embodied cognition‘, an area that’s recently been getting a lot of attention in cognitive science and which argues that we can’t understand psychology without understanding the body and our actions. The reason it’s so potentially revolutionary is that it challenges the idea that psychology can be […]

Pirahã: the world’s most controversial language

It’s probably true to say that Pirahã is the most controversial language in the world owing to Daniel Everett arguing that the language doesn’t have recursion, as Chomsky’s ‘universal’ language theory predicts, and doesn’t have fixed words for numbers or colours. New Scientist has just put a video online that is a superbrief introduction to […]

Jesuit hypochondria in early modern Naples

I always assumed Early Science and Medicine was what happened during 9am ward meetings, but it’s apparently an academic history journal. In a recent issue, it has a curious article that discusses a ‘plague’ of ‘hypochondria‘ (an unfounded fear of serious illness) that apparently swept through the Jesuit community in 17th century Naples. The first […]

I take your brain to another dimension

Pay close attention. The New York Times has an article on the Boltzmann brain theory that argues that random fluctuations in the universe could create self-aware entities. In other words, brains, being spontaneously created by the universe. It turns out, the theory isn’t solely about brains. It argues that matter could be created from fluctuations […]

It’s not a symptom, it’s irony

The Utne Reader has a shocking article on a near medical tragedy – a misdiagnosis of depression that led to inappropriate medication and the patient almost being given electroshock treatment. Luckily, one of the more cultural sensitive of the medical staff noticed the patient’s normal behaviour was being inappropriately pathologised as mental illness. George Farthing, […]

The anatomy of fashion

T-shirt fashionistas Alphanumeric have created an anatomically labelled brain t-shirt, so you never have to decide between wearing a t-shirt or taking your neuroanatomy textbook with you. Of course, if ever you were in a situation where you needed to choose between clothes or a neuroanatomy book, you might have more to worry about than […]

Mapping emotions onto the city streets

Christian Nold maps cities. But instead of mapping their physical layout, he maps their emotional geography. He uses a technique he invented called biomapping where participants walk the area connected to a system that measures galvanic skin response – a measure of the electrical resistance of the skin which is known to give a rating […]

Higher price makes cheap wine taste better

A new brain scanning study has supported what we’ve suspected all along, more expensive wine tastes better partly because we expect it to. Neuroscientist Hilke Plassman led a brain-scanning study [pdf], shortly to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where volunteers were asked to taste and rate five different wines, […]

The psychology of the moral instinct

The New York Times has a fantastic in-depth article by Steven Pinker on the origins of morality and the psychology of moral reasoning. It’s a comprehensive and enjoyable review of most of the main areas of the recently invigorated ‘moral psychology’ field. As well as discussing how lab-based studies are helping us to understand the […]

Nature NeuroPod visits SfN megaconference

Nature Neuroscience’s NeuroPod podcast has a special on the recent Society for Neuroscience annual megaconference that picks up on some of the more interesting new developments. There’s loads of fascinating new findings in there, but don’t miss the last few minutes of the podcast where Prof Eleanor Maguire talks about ongoing work with London Taxi […]

Fighting over inner experience

Salon has an entertaining review of the new book Describing Inner Experience which is sort of a combination of an argument and a self-consciousness showdown between philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel and psychologist Russell Hurlburt. Schwitzgebel is sceptical that we can accurately describe our inner thoughts and experiences, while Hurlburt feels that we are capable of doing […]

The art of first impressions

Frontal Cortex has found an absolutely fantastic video art piece that explores the psychology of first impressions. It really brings home the fact that first impressions vary so much between individuals and can be vastly wide of the mark as character judgements. The piece is by film-makers Lenka Clayton and James Price. The pair also […]

2008-01-11 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: A neuroimaging study on ESP! The Neurocritic looks at a recent study that investigated parapsychology using brain scanners. Drug companies approximately spend $30 billion dollars promoting drugs in the US – twice as much as they spend on research and development, according to a […]

Cary Grant on LSD

Film star Cary Grant talks about his experiences with LSD in an excerpt from his autobiography. Grant was one of the few people who were medically treated with LSD-assisted psychotherapy when it was still legal in 1960s America, and he claimed he benefited greatly from it. The feeling is that of an unmarshaling of the […]

The psychology of the politics of fear

Newsweek has a fantastic article on the psychology and neuroscience behind the politics of fear which draws directly on examples from the current and past US elections. American politics in particular it seems, has, in recent years, used fear as a way of trying to motivate voters and support particular candidates. The Newsweek article looks […]


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