Monthly Archives: February 2008

War apparently boosts Iraqi teenagers’ self-esteem

Who would have guessed the Iraq war would be so uplifting to the children of Baghdad? According to research funded by the US Military, the invasion boosted the self-esteem of Iraqi teenagers. The BPS Research Digest covers the study which took place in the summer of 2004, a year after the invasion. With this new […]

Psychology Today, every day

Psychology Today is a bimonthly US magazine that’s traditionally been thought of as a ‘pop psychology’ publication but has made efforts in recent years to be more scientific. They’ve just launched a blog network and have attracted some big names in academic psychology to contribute. Authors include psychiatrist Peter Kramer, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa and […]

2008-02-22 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The New York Times tackles the debate about whether psychiatric drugs can increase suicide in some instances. To the bunkers! Agent Kurzweil at work again: Machines to match man by 2029. Virtuality and reality to merge. Yale psychiatrist Charles Barber argues in the Washington […]

An Unquiet Lecture

Someone’s uploaded a video to YouTube of the fantastic Kay Redfield Jamison discussing her own experiences with bipolar disorder. Jamison is a psychologist and one of the world’s leading experts on the science of the condition that’s often called manic depression. She was known for her groundbreaking work on the disorder for many years before […]

Child’s play is a tough problem

Children’s play has long fascinated psychologists. The post-Freudians saw it as a direct expression of the human unconscious and its often been seen an essential, if not slightly mysterious, element of a healthy childhood. The New York Times has a wonderfully in-depth article on the latest scientific discoveries on the role of play in development, […]

The science of ‘voodoo death’

Can you die from a voodoo curse? Physiologist Walter Cannon was better known for his work on emotion but was fascinated by the idea that someone could die from fright – something he nicknamed ‘voodoo death’. He collected anecdotes from around the world of people who had died after being cursed in a now classic […]

Three impossible things before breakfast

The Guardian has a insightful piece by journalist Rik Hemsley describing his personal experiences with Alice in Wonderland syndrome, where the ‘body image’ or ‘body map’ becomes distorted, leading the affected person to feel like particular parts of the body, or the whole of it, have changed size or shape. It doesn’t usually involve direct […]

Five auditory illusions

In one of its rare fits of generosity, New Scientist has put a feature online that demonstrates five cool auditory illusions. Possibly the freakiest, is psychologist Diana Deutsch’s illusion called ‘Phantom Words’. For me at least, I began by a hearing certain phrase, only to hear it transform over time into something else. The ‘temporal […]

Personality plagiarism rife on internet dating sites

When you present yourself to potential suitors in an online dating profile, you are, in the terminology of psychology, ‘constructing the self’. Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that the most attractive profiles are being ripped off and plagiarised by lazy daters wanting to freeload on the most creative members’ personalities. The Wall Street Journal has […]

A bait and switch trick on torture and psychologists?

A poster on Metafilter has collected together news reports on the growing number of psychologists leaving the American Psychological Association in protest at their failure to condemn members who take part in the ‘War on Terror’ interrogations. One of the most surprising aspects is from a contributor who suggests that the APA released a different […]

Diagnostic handshake

Mark Gurrieri was diagnosed with a brain tumour after shaking a doctor’s hand. BBC News has an interesting piece on the incident, where the doctor noticed that Gurrieri’s hand was spongy and swollen, suggesting a growth hormone problem that can be caused by a tumour on the brain’s pituitary gland. Mr Gurrieri underwent tests and […]

Encephalon: the new dawn

If you’ve been wondering what happened to the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival, it’s been on a brief hiatus while its management has been passed on to new hands. It was previously managed by Mo at Neurophilosophy, whose time has now been largely captured as a neuroscience postgrad. Luckily, the ever capable Alvaro Fernandez […]

Push my brain button

You can promote almost anything with a few words about the brain because it sounds like science. This week’s Bad Science column takes a close look at ‘Brain Gym’, a scheme introduced into large numbers of UK schools that attempts to boost brain function by getting the kids to do, well, complete nonsense. For example, […]

A history of Freudian fiction

The changing fortunes of psychoanalysis have been reflected in some of the greatest novels of the last hundred years, a literary history recounted in an article for The Guardian. The piece is by historian Lisa Appignanesi, author of the highly regarded new book Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors […]

Furry neurons

Retrospectacle has discovered the ultimate bedtime accessory for the sleepy neuroscientist – a neuron-shaped teddy. The next step might be a white matter inspired sleeping bag, although I do wonder how they’ll prevent the draft getting in through the nodes of Ranvier. And obviously, the next step will be an oligodendrocyte pillow. Link to Retrospectacle […]

Them and Us

I remember a recently admitted patient, nose-to-nose with his psychiatrist, screaming at her “you don’t know what I’m going through – how the fuck do you know what it’s like little missy?”. The psychiatrist finished the discussion, saying she’d come back to him later, and after a brief pause to collect herself, moved on to […]


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