Monthly Archives: May 2008

Expensive advice more likely to be followed

Hot on the heels of a study that found that simply describing a wine as more expensive made it taste better comes the discovery that the same advice is more likely to be followed if it costs more. The study was led by organisational psychologist Francesca Gino and is covered by the BPS Research Digest: […]

2008-05-16 Spike activity

Frontal lobe damage changes performance on the ‘Pepsi challenge‘. Isn’t the world a better place now we know that? Philosophy Now reviews ‘Freedom and Neurobiology’ by John Searle. In an article for Salon, our recent interviewee neurologist Robert Burton gets stuck into a high-tech huckster promoting expensive SPECT scans to diagnose Alzheimer’s and herbal supplements […]

The secret family life of a false memory

Thanks to Aaron and Frontal Cortex for simultaneously alerting us to this fantastic animation that recounts a charming real life case of a false memory. Families are like incubators for false memories because each family has its favourite stories, anecdotes and foundational myths that get passed on, retold and molded in the retelling, like an […]

Orgasm and brain

Scientific American Mind tackles the neuroscience of orgasm in a feature article which has just been released online. One of the merits of the article is that it avoids the ‘men are simple, women are complex’ stereotype and presents results from scientific studies that suggest there are both subtle similarities and differences in sexual response. […]

Undercover genetics and the function of the brain

Science News has an article on one of the most important future topics in neuroscience – epigenetics, the science of how information coded in the genes is used when the brain does its work. Almost every cell in the body has a copy of the DNA, and therefore has the capability to express any protein. […]

Brain surgery in ancient Incan society

Neurophilosophy has a fascinating article on the recent archaeological discovery of numerous ancient Incan skulls of which over 1 in 6 showed signs of trepanation – an ancient form of brain surgery where a hole was drilled in the skull. What’s surprising is just how common it was. 66 skulls from Incan burial sites had […]

The complete Husband and Wife rating scales

Our post on the 1930’s ‘wife rating scale’ was picked up by Boing Boing and one of their readers realised she had a copy of the full scale – including the rating scale for husbands – and posted the whole questionnaire online. You may be interested to hear that husbands could earn a demerit for […]

Phantom extra limbs

Phantom limbs are a well-known phenomenon where sensations and feelings are still experienced from a missing limb. In rare cases after brain injury, an additional phantom limb can appear – causing the sensation of a phantom third hand, arm or leg. The drawings on the left are from two case studies of people with these […]

Lord of the ring artefacts

I’m thoroughly digging the brain section of the Radiology Picture of the Day website. As you might expect, it’s a wonderfully geeky place where radiologists post an image every day, often brain CTs or MRIs, with a little gem of wisdom with each one. One of the most interesting is the pictured CT scan with […]

The gift of pure hypomania?

A forthcoming study from the Journal of Affective Disorders looked at people who seem to have the ‘ups’ of manic depression but none of the ‘downs’. While people with pure hypomania were more likely to have had legal troubles and be impulsive, they were also more likely to earn more and be married. The study […]

A wife rating scale from the 1930s

This month’s edition of the psychology magazine Monitor has an amusing article about a psychometric scale designed in the 1930s for rating the quality of your wife. It was designed by Dr George W. Crane in an attempt to give couples feedback on their marriages. But although husbands or wives could fill in the scale […]

The battle over infants with cross-gender desires

NPR Radio’s All Things Considered just had an interesting feature on two six-year old boys who identify with and want to be girls. It’s something that might be diagnosed as gender identity disorder or GID and the programme looks at how the two psychologists dealt with the issue in very different ways. One psychologist, Ken […]

Encephalon 45 glides into your mind with a sunny hello

Edition 45 of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just arrived online, this time ably hosted at PodBlack Blog. A couple of my favourites include a poem inspired by a new stereoscopic atlas of the body and brain, and an excellent post on the neuropsychology of stalking (with a great bonus Death Cab […]

Five minutes with Robert Burton

Robert Burton is a neurologist and novelist who has recently turned his attentions to the complexities of belief and the brain. Unlike the recent trend for focusing exclusively on religious belief and the neuroscience of mystical experience, Burton explores something much more essential – how do we have beliefs, any beliefs, at all? His recent […]

Mad pride and prejudice

An article in today’s New York Times looks at the ‘mad pride’ movement and meets many of the people who aim to destigmatise mental illness by being upfront about their experience of altered states of mind. The article features journalist Liz Spikol, who we interviewed back in 2006, and professor of law Elyn Saks, who […]

Addiction to addiction: the horrifying reality

Cracked has an amusing article satirising the increasing tendency to portray any repetitive behaviour as an ‘addiction’. It discusses the horrifying reality of six things you didn’t know you could get addicted to and helpfully lists the warning signs. The first on the list is the scourge of book addiction. We know that reading can […]


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