Monthly Archives: March 2008

Common scents and the psychology of smell

Nerve has a brief but interesting interview with psychologist Rachel Herz who talks about her research on the sense of smell and how it can influence our mind and behaviour. I’ve not encountered Herz’s work before but it turns out she’s done a great deal of scientific research on the psychology and neuroscience of smell […]

Seduction of the Innocent and the myth of Wertham

The New Yorker has a wonderful article on the famous American crackdown on horror comics in the 1950s, a campaign sparked by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham. Wertham wrote the influential book, Seduction of the Innocent, which claimed that the comics of the time caused juvenile delinquency. He listed themes that supposedly ran through various popular story […]

Little known, and even less forgiven

The picture is of the memorial to Robert Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, a 17th century treatise on depression and still one of the greatest books in the history of medicine. It is built into one of the pillars in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, as he was both a vicar in the city […]

Playing mind games, off the shelf

PhysOrg has a brief article on the various ‘mind reading’ headsets that are in the pipeline and could make it onto the gaming market this year. The article mentions several systems that are apparently close to release and notes some of technology which is intended to allow ‘thought control’ of games: Emotiv, a company based […]

Normality bites

BBC Radio 4 has just concluded another run of its fantastic series Am I Normal? which looks at the science of differences in our minds, brains and abilities. The series has done a remarkably good job in exploring the psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience of common human concerns and how they differ across the population. This […]

Defining brain death and the controversies of existence

The Boston Globe has an interesting article on the concept of ‘brain death’. The criteria for brain death are being contested and it’s become a hot issue, partly because the US allows organs from consenting donors to be removed when brain death has been diagnosed. The ‘dead donor rule’ stipulates that it’s only possible to […]

Pavlov: the name that rings a bell

Mental Floss, an emporium of thought-themed merchandise, do this witty Pavlov t-shirt in either a long or short-sleeved version. Actually, they do quite a few psychology themed t-shirts although they have a distinctly early 19th century feel to them. For those still on a behaviourist tip, Advances in the History of Psychology have an interesting […]

2008-03-21 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Medication is the least effective way of treating children with conduct problems, according to a recent review. Truth serum art chaos! The Arts Catalyst has a secret psychology art-science project you can participate in on March 29th in Liverpool. The New York Times has […]

Better living through reckless self-experimentation

Scientific American have just concluded its series on scientists who have experimented on themselves in an effort to better understand the mind, brain and body. The first piece is about Kevin ‘Captain Cyborg’ Warwick, who seems mainly to have been experimenting with the media rather than himself. I’ve always considered him the poor man’s Stelarc […]

Will Working Mothers‚Äô Brains Explode?

A new journal, Neuroethics, has just launched and among the freely available articles is an engaging piece on ‘neurosexism’, the increasing trend to portray sex differences as ‘hard wired’ into the brain. The piece is by psychologist Cordelia Fine who argues that some recent popular science books and articles are simply restating old stereotypes but […]

The northern lights of neural stem cells

The beautiful image on the right is a collection of neural stem cells stained with fluorescent die, taken from the finalists of the Wellcome Image Awards. A wonderful image of the bacteria that cause a type of meningitis is another brain-related image in the finalists’ gallery. There are plenty more images of course, but don’t […]

Internet addiction nonsense hits the AJP

While we’ve got used to ‘internet addiction’ popping up in the media from time to time, it has inexplicably been the subject of an editorial in this month’s American Journal of Psychiatry arguing it should be included in the DSM-IV – the next version of the diagnostic manual for psychiatry. The editorial suggests that we […]

Head transplants and Szymborska’s Experiment

The Nobel prize-winning poet Wisława Szymborska wrote one of her most striking poems about a morbid experiment where a dog’s head was cut from its body but kept alive by a blood-pumping machine. The poem serves as a commentary on happiness and anxiety about the purpose of existence, but what many people don’t know is […]

Kiddie psychopaths and the database nation

Gary Pugh, the director of forensic sciences for the British police has sparked controversy after he suggested that children as young as five who display ‘future offending traits’ should be placed on a DNA database so they are more likely to be picked up if they commit crime in the future. Pugh is almost certainly […]

Encephalon 41 arrives

The 41st edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just been published online, and this time it’s ably hosted by Pure Pedantry. A couple of my favourites include Providentia on one of A.R. Luria’s most fascinating cases and the PodBlack Blog on magical thinking in politicians. There’s plenty more, so have a […]

Faking the biscuit

They say sincerity is everything, and if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Nowhere is this more true than in marketing and Time magazine discusses the seemingly related concept of ‘synthetic authenticity’ – the feeling that a product is the ‘real deal’, which is supposedly going to be one of the big commercial […]


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