Monthly Archives: May 2008

The brains of dead Russian geniuses

What makes a man a genius? Russian neuroscientists were pondering this exactly this question in the early 1900s and did exactly what seemed sensible at the time – they collected and dissected the brains of some of the greatest cultural figures in a huge collection called ‘The Pantheon of Brains’. It’s a fascinating story told […]

2008-05-23 Spike activity

PLoS Medicine has an eye-opening study on how the local price of alcohol is related to the level of violence in the area. To the bunkers! Robot removes brain tumour. BBC News Magazine has an interesting piece on ‘celebrities we love to hate’ with comments on the phenomenon of celebrity from a number of sociologists. […]

Ecstasy’s impact

I’ve just noticed this review article that concisely reviews what we know about how the street drug ecstasy (MDMA) affects the function of the brain. In terms of life-threatening physical damage, MDMA is a great deal safer than most other recreational drugs including alcohol and tobacco, but there is increasing evidence that it impacts on […]

What do you need to do to be considered an expert?

Sociologist Harry Collins is interviewed in American Scientist on his fascinating mission to find out what we need to do to be considered an expert and what different types of expertise exist. Collins has spent many years studying how science works. Not how it is supposed to work, through experiments and falsification and gradual knowledge […]

Don’t believe the neurohype

Wired magazine has just published a must-read article on the hyping of neuroimaging technology by companies wanting to sell brain scans on the deceptive premise that they can tell you something about your mood and personality, the effectiveness of adverts or whether you’re being truthful. Here at Mind Hacks, we’ve covered several highlights in the […]

Linguistic feathers ruffled by high tech new school

This week’s Nature has a feature article on how a new breed of computational linguists are attempting to understand the evolution of language by using high powered computer models. The traditionalists are not impressed, and accuse the new school of reducing language to numbers and oversimplifying to the point of meaninglessness. It’s an old debate […]

Psychology’s greatest case studies

BBC Radio 4 have just broadcast a fantastic new radio series called Case Study that looks at some of the most influential, and most remarkable, case studies in the history of psychology. The most recent edition was on the famous case of Phineas Gage, the 19th century American railway worker who had a 6 foot […]

Crowded thoughts: the 70s boom in multiple personalities

Below is an excerpt from psychologist John Kihlstrom’s ¬≠2005 review article on dissociative disorders where he talks about the sudden ‘epidemic’ of multiple personality disorder, now know as DID, in the 1960s and 70s. Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID is a diagnosis that describes where someone manifests various personalities, often of a diverse range of […]

Virtual Iraq used to treat post-war trauma in US vets

Continuing yesterday’s virtual reality theme, The New Yorker has an in-depth article about how US Iraq veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder are being treated in a VR simulation of battle situations. The VR simulation is actually a modified version of Full Spectrum Warrior, a military tactics video game that was first developed to train […]

The Strange Case of the Electronic Lover

The Strange Case of the Electronic Lover was an influential article by Lindsy Van Gelder that examined how a case of gender-bending identity faking from the early days of online chatrooms impacted on a virtual community. I’d read it many years ago when it was published in the book, Computerization and Controversy, but have just […]

Decline of a Baghdad psychiatric hospital

The New York Times covers the disturbing state of the Ibn Rushid hospital, one of only two psychiatric hospitals in Baghdad that serves the entire population of 6 million. The article is equally moving and disturbing as it describes how the local citizens are suffering the effects of war with little available assistance while the […]

Virtual paranoia

The Royal College of Psychiatrists podcast has a fascinating interview with psychologist Daniel Freeman who discusses his recent study that used virtual reality to study paranoid thinking. Freeman has pioneered the use of VR in studying paranoia to try and understand how individual psychological differences contribute to suspiciousness and fear. Of course, it’s possible to […]

Survivor search robots to comfort disaster survivors

The St Petersburg Times has an article on the new generation of rescue robots that search for survivors after disasters. Their creator, engineer Robin Murphy, is designing robots that will aim to provide psychological comfort to trapped victims until the rescuers can reach them. Murphy has been designing and deploying rescue robots for many years, […]

The philosophy of suicide

The most recent edition of ABC Radio National’s The Philosopher’s Zone discussed the philosophy of suicide, looking at how our concepts of self-killing have changed throughout history and whether there is any such thing as a rational reason for ending our own lives. The philosopher Albert Camus famously stated that “there is but one truly […]

How neurotech will change the world, one brain at a time

High end business magazine Cond√© Nast Portfolio has a feature article on the latest developments in the 120 billion dollar neurotech industry that aims to develop drugs and devices to cure diseases and optimise our brains. The article takes a broad view of the industry, but also highlights a few areas which are looking hot […]

Pharmaceutical product placement rife in TV shows

Treatment Online reviews some recent research showing that there is an increasing trend for pharmaceutical drug brand names to appear in prime-time TV shows in what looks increasingly like widespread product placement advertising. Unsurprisingly, the main culprits tend to be popular medical shows, where the rate of pharmaceutical name-dropping seems to be increasing. You might […]


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