Monthly Archives: May 2008

Do Bayesian statistics rule the brain?

This week’s New Scientist has a fascinating article on a possible ‘grand theory’ of the brain that suggests that virtually all brain functions can be modelled with Bayesian statistics – an approach discovered by an 18th century vicar. Bayesian statistics allow the belief in the hypothesis to shift as new evidence is collected. This means […]

In the midst of the video game fury

The BPS Research Digest has just alerted me to an excellent cover article from Prospect magazine on the effects of computer games on young minds and why the scaremongering is largely hot air. One of the biggest mongers of scare is the otherwise excellent Susan Greenfield, who seems to be convinced, mostly on the basis […]

Fantastic introduction to MRI brain scanning physics

Magnetic resonance imaging is the most popular method for scanning the brain both for research and for clinical investigations. I’ve just found a wonderfully written article that gives a great introduction to the physics of how MRI scanners work. It is both clearly written for the non-specialist and fantastically complete. This is a rare and […]

2008-05-30 Spike activity

ABC Radio National’s The Philosopher’s Zone broadcasts part two of its series on the philosophy of suicide. PsyBlog has been rocking the cognitive biases recently. This is a fascinating article on ‘Four Belief Biases That Can Reduce Pleasure‘. Columbia University has an archive of video lectures by some of the ‘big names’ in psychology and […]

Miracle fruit trips out flavours

The New York Times have an article on the truly miraculous miracle fruit, a plant that contains a unique protein that transforms even the most intensely acidic flavours into sweet taste sensations. ‚ÄúYou pop it in your mouth and scrape the pulp off the seed, swirl it around and hold it in your mouth for […]

Review: “Why the mind is not a computer”

“Why the mind is not a computer: A pocket lexicon of neuromythology” Raymond Tallis (2004, originally published 1994). Neuromythology is the shibboleth of cognitive science that the mind is a machine, and that somehow our theories of information, complexity, patterns or representations are sufficient to explain consciousness. Tallis accuses cognitive scientists, and philosophers of cognitive […]

History of american psychiatry, in two obituaries

The last few months have seen the passing of Frank Ayd and Charles Brenner, two huge figures in American psychiatry. Their obituaries in The New York Times reflect the ideological divide between psychoanalysis and pharmacotherapy that defined stateside psychiatry during the 20th century. Ayd, pictured top, was one of the pioneers of antipsychotic drug therapy […]

Encephalon 46 arrives

The latest edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just appeared online, ably hosted by The Neurocritic. A couple of my favourites include an article on the psychology of superstition from PodBlack and one hot from the Association for Psychological Science convention, where Cognitive Daily report on cognitive influences on calculation. It’s […]

Hash high in cannabidiol but varies widely

In light of research showing that an ingredient in cannabis, cannabidiol, seems to actually reduce the risk of psychosis, I speculated previously on Mind Hacks whether smokers might be attracted to high-cannabidiol dope. A study of UK street cannabis published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences suggests that cannabis resin (hashish) has the average highest […]

Placebo is not what you think

The New York Times covers an interesting development in the world of consumer medicine – a company selling placebos to consumers that they can use to ease their children’s ills. For doctors, the use of placebos to treat medical conditions is explicitly banned by most medical associations but their use is widely debated. Thousands of […]

Spellbound by the box

A quote from the sardonic Alfred Hitcock where he notes the curious interaction between mind doctors and the moving image: “Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.” I suspect he was commenting on concerns about negative effects of television, although I wonder […]

Free choice and the female science divide

The Boston Globe has a provocative article that sheds some new light on the old debate over why there are so few women in maths and physical science subjects. One important factor seems to be that they simply choose other professions, but if you think this answer is too simplistic, there may be more to […]

Like a bullet in the head

Neurophilosophy has collected some of the most unusual cases of penetrating brain injury from the medical literature, with x-rays that illustrate how some of the most curious objects can end up on the wrong side of the bony brain protector. You may recognise a couple that we’ve noted before on Mind Hacks, but this is […]

Mental illness following The Exorcist

Horror movie The Exorcist remains one of cinema’s darkest and most frightening classics. So great was its power that rumours circulated about viewers running in fear, feinting, or even going mad after seeing the film. In fact, it caused such concern that it was discussed in the medical literature for its possible role in triggering […]

‘Miracle cure’ for dyslexia fails to make the grade

Today’s edition of Bad Science covers a so-called ‘miracle cure’ for dyslexia which has been persistently promoted in the UK media, despite numerous complaints upheld by media regulators, veiled threats of legal action against people who say it doesn’t work and five editors of a scientific journal resigning over the publication of a flawed study […]

Terry Pratchett, on the ropes

On the Ropes, BBC Radio 4’s programme about people in difficult situations, interviews author Terry Pratchett about his recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. In the first half of the interview, Pratchett talks about his early years as a writer and how he came to write the Discworld series and other novels. In the latter half, […]


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