Monthly Archives: January 2008

Opinion leaders impotent in ideas economy

Science News has a remarkably clear and concise article on a study that looked at how ideas spread through social networks. It found that under most circumstances a critical mass of more easily influenced people, not ‘opinion leaders’, are key to making ideas popular. One of the major theories in marketing is that new ideas […]

‘Stress': from buildings to the battlefield

Sometimes we don’t realise how much the vocabulary of psychology has become part of everyday language. I was surprised to learn that the use of the term ‘stress’ to mean psychological tension, rather than just physical pressure, has only been with us since the mid-1930s and was popularised by the major wars of the 20th […]

A phobia of bridges

The New York Times has a short but interesting piece on people with gephyrophobia, a morbid fear of bridges. Phobias are often described as an irrational fear, but most have a reasonable basis to them, as reflected in the fact that phobias most commonly concern things that have an element of danger or risk – […]

Composing, by brain waves

Mick Grierson has been hacking some applications for a brain-computer interface that uses EEG to convert the brain’s electrical signals into a thought-driven synthesizer control mechanism. The kit is just in a test stage at the moment, but there’s a YouTube video of him being able to trigger specific notes from his EEG signals. OK. […]

Knock, knock, room service

NPR has a short piece on a fascinating study where the researchers informed hotel maids that their normal work counted as exercise, which had the effect of making them more physically fit, despite them not seeming to change their activity levels. Unfortunately, the NPR segment seems to suggest that the study ‘challenges the placebo effect’, […]

Buy your own brain surgery tools, online

I’ve just found a page with some beautiful pictures of antique neurosurgery tools, including these trephining or trepanning tools for cutting holes in the skull. Can you imagine the elbow work needed to get the job done? After a bit of a search I discovered that there’s a healthy market in neurosurgical tools on the […]

Castration anxiety, of a non-Freudian kind

This interesting study published in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine compared the psychological effect of castration on two quite different groups of people: on people with prostrate cancer for whom the procedure was a medical necessity, and for people who wished to castrate themselves on a voluntary basis. Motivations for voluntary eunuchs vary, but in […]

Milgram’s notorious conformity experiment replicated

The Situationist has a fantastic post on a recent replication of Stanley Milgram’s (in)famous conformity experiment which is usually always described as being ‘too unethical to perform today’. In Milgram’s original study, participants were asked to give increasingly severe electric shocks to someone supposedly trying to learn a series of word pairs. In fact, the […]

17th century brain surgery, digitally recreated

A reader of neuroscience blog Retrospectacle wrote in to say they’d created a video simulation of how a 17th century brain surgery tool would work, and it’s a wonderfully vivid, if not somewhat gruesome, animation of the tool in action. The tool was the elevatorium biploidum and was described by the pioneering Dutch surgeon Cornelius […]

Dreamy panic mashup

ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind recently broadcast a beautifully produced edition on the cultural history of panic. Curiously, it inspired a student of one of the sociologists interviewed on the programme to create their own retro video mashup using some of the audio. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric, dreamily paranoid and a striking accompaniment […]

ECT: the blues and the electric avenue

Electroconvulsive therapy, ECT or electroshock therapy is the most controversial treatment in psychiatry, and it’s also the most misunderstood. It’s impossible to discuss ECT without mentioning One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because the book, the play and the film have given us the most culturally salient image of the treatment. Kesey depicts it as […]

Think Green and put your brain in a tree

Rebel online clothing shop Ban T-Shirts have a t-shirt extolling the virtues of thinking green, nicely illustrated with a brain-tree hybrid. Whether a brain-tree hybrid would itself be considered environmentally friendly is anyone’s guess, but it makes for a good visual statement nonetheless. But if paranoid resistance is more your thing, their ‘thought criminal’ shirt […]

Sleep disorders in Disney characters

A study published in Sleep Medicine has found that several Disney films have surprisingly accurate depictions of clinical sleep problems, particularly a disorder called ‘REM sleep behavior disorder’. Also known as RBD, REM sleep behavior disorder is where normal sleep paralysis doesn’t happen during REM sleep, so to varying degrees, a person might ‘act out’ […]

2008-01-04 Spike activity

Quick links from (roughly) the past week in mind and brain news: San Francisco Science Cafe puts video online of a talk on the neuroscience of meditation. AP News reports US Military apparently not recording suicides in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Was the development of cooking a kickstart to the evolution of the modern human […]

Boredom, psychedelics and mind-bending images

The bi-monthly Scientific American Mind seem to be making more of their feature articles freely available online after the first month has gone (and bravo to that!), and they’ve just opened-up two new articles: one on the psychology of boredom and the other on the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness. But before […]

The year in sex and psychology

Psychologist Dr Petra Boyton has just completed her yearly review of the past year in sex, revisits last year’s predictions and looks forward to possible developments in 2008. One of her predictions is that the media will become obsessed with ‘future sex’. Indeed, the recently published book Love and Sex with Robots got a huge […]

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