Monthly Archives: March 2008

Beyond belief

Salon has a provocative article by neurologist Robert Burton who discusses what the neuroscience of belief means for how we understand the world, drawn from his new book, On Being Certain. We’re going to be posting an interview with Burton on Mind Hacks in the near future, but the Salon article should give you a […]

A stroke of insight

We’ve discussed the remarkable neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor before but I’ve finally got round to watching her engaging TED talk on her experience of having a stroke, which is now available to watch online. It’s a bit poetic in places. You can almost hear the sound of a thousand cognitive scientists gritting their teeth as […]

Pica: put your money where your mouth is

An upcoming article in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology reports on a man who suffered lead poisoning owing to his habit of eating roofing plates. The tendency to eat the inedible is known as ‘pica‘. It is an established psychiatric diagnosis, is well-reported in the medical literature and has given us some of the more […]

The English Surgeon

I had the pleasure of watching a screening of a stunning new documentary called The English Surgeon yesterday. It’s a film about the work of London-based neurosurgeon Henry Marsh and his colleague Igor Kurilets in the Ukraine. However, to say the film was just about brain surgery would be vastly under value its significance, and […]

Medical model behaviour

Journalist and campaigner Liz Spikol has written an excellent piece for the Philadelphia Weekly on the influence of the ‘medical model’ on how we understand and treat mental illness. To simplify a little, the ‘medical model’ approach involves classifying mental distress or impaired behaviour as cut-and-dry diagnoses and assumes that these disorders are best understood […]

2008-03-14 Spike activity

Slightly late quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Neurophilosophy posts a ‘best of‘ collection of its many excellent articles online. The Kinsey Institute for sex research have started their own blog and regular podcast on all matters sexual. Social networks are like the eye. Edge has a video lecture on […]

Following deep brain stimulation

Wired Science have got a great short film that follows a two people who have deep brain stimulation devices implanted in their brains to treat tremors. Tremor is a symptom of Parkinson’s disease and this was one of the earliest targets for early DBS trials. The film follows someone who has exactly this difficulty, plus […]

A personal note / una nota personal

I qualify as a clinical psychologist in September and would like to work in Latin America for 6 months to a year afterwards. If you know anyone in Spanish speaking Latin America who might be interested employing a newly qualified clinical psychologist who speaks passable Spanish (with room for improvement) and has a PhD in […]

Inner speech signals, but isn’t a psychic telephone

New Scientist reports on a neck-band technology that allows the wearer’s silent thoughts to trigger messages over a phone line. It sounds impressive, but the video that accompanies the story makes it look like the technology reads your inner thoughts and transmits them as sounds, when it fact it does something far more basic. Whenever […]

Undercover psychiatry

An interesting historical snippet from p48 of psychiatrist Giovanni Stanghellini’s book on the phenomenology of psychosis, Disembodied Spirits and Deanimated Bodies: The German psychiatrist Karl Willmanns, who would later be director of the Heidelberg Clinic until the rise of the Nazis, published a book [in 1906] on the disenfranchised. He had been following them around […]

Exporting psychological treatments, importing wisdom

A recent 60 country World Health Organisation study found that depression is the most serious chronic illness, worse than angina, arthritis, asthma, and diabetes. Unfortunately, the majority of people who experience depression live in low income countries where help is least likely to be available. The New York Times has a fascinating article on an […]

The way to a man’s hiccups…

A case of a man with unstoppable hiccups has just been published online in the medical literature. Rather unusually, it turned out they were caused by early stage Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is most commonly associated with movement difficulties and the public most associate it with tremor or shaking. However, it can have a wide […]

Transport for London have combined two of my favourite things: safety for cyclists and classic Psychology experiments. The website provides a test of awareness that Mind Hacks fans will instantly recognise as an updated (urbanised!) version of Hack #41: “Make Things Invisible Simply by Concentrating (on Something Else)”. Fantastic! Link to the awareness test […]

Could you endure such pain, at any hand but hers?

I finally got round to having a look at the New York Times migraine blog and found it full of fantastic writing and some wonderful artwork that aims to capture the perceptual distortions associated with the mother of all headaches. There’s a particularly good article by Oliver Sacks (his first book was on migraine) who […]

Pimping insomnia

Discover Magazine has an expos√© of a recent surge of news stories on insomnia and sleep disorders that stretch from the dull to the frankly unbelievable. It turns out a fair number seem to be based on press releases from PR firms, some trying to promote hotels, but others coming from the National Sleep Foundation. […]


Film-maker Martin Hampton has created a revealing documentary on four people with different degrees of compulsive hoarding, where individuals incessantly collect household objects, even to the point of not being able to throw out rubbish. Compulsive hoarding is often linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder, where affected people experience intrusive thoughts or urges to complete certain actions […]


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