Monthly Archives: June 2008

Arch of Hysteria

I’ve just bought an excellent book called Invention of Hysteria which is about how the use of photography by the 19th century French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot helped shape the our concepts of ‘hysteria‘ – a disorder where psychological disturbances manifest themselves as what seem like neurological symptoms. Such patients would today be diagnosed with ‘conversion […]

Out of body experiences and grasping the ungraspable

This week’s ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind discusses what happens in the brain during out of body experiences, and why actions can be accurate even when our perceptions are not. The first interview is with neurologist Olaf Blanke who discusses some of his recent compelling research, including a virtual reality experiment to induce […]

Trip At The Brain

It’s an age old story. Boy meets girl. Boys loses girl. Boy thinks it might be because he was hypnotised by a crazed scientist who was swinging a brain on a chain. Boy thinks this might explain why the girl was originally a nun but changed into hallucinatory sex vampire. Yes, it’s the video for […]

Average guesses to hit the mark

The Economist has a short but sweet article on a new study that has found that asking the same person to make two guesses and averaging the answer is more accurate than any one guess alone, with more time between guesses improving accuracy. The study is apparently by psychologists Hal Pashler and Ed Vul and […]

Psychotic visitors to the White House

In 1965, The American Journal of Psychiatry published a curious article on delusional people who had visited the White House in Washington DC, wanting to see the President. The article reviewed the cases of 40 people admitted to the Washington D.C. General Hospital from 1960-1. It also outlined 10 cases in more detail, this is […]

Back from the dead

A scene from a thousand horror movies, retold in the medical literature, with an additional lesson about the correct use of cerebral perfusion and angiography in diagnosing the brain dead patient. Presumably, learnt shortly after the doctors had stopped screaming. I love the use of the phrase “the situation became confusing”, just after the dead […]

Psychobabble worst offenders

PsyBlog has collected the responses to its request for the most annoying psychobabble and you can now vote for your favourite worst offender. The list reminds me of how many terms, particularly from psychoanalysis, have become part of the language, probably without people realising it. Being ‘in denial’, being ‘anal’, being ‘defensive’, feeling ‘split’ over […]

2008-06-27 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: More on experimental philosophy. Scientific America has an excellent piece on the curious new form of conceptual engineering. The BPS Research Digest looks at new research on ‘non-criminal psychopaths‘. How to win friends and influence people. Cognitive Daily covers some recent research on popularity […]

PsychCentral hits Time

PsychCentral, one of the original internet psychology sites, has recently been featured by Time magazine as one of the 50 best websites of 2008. One of my favourite PsychCentral features is Flashback which says what was featured on the site 1, 5 and 10 years ago. That’s a fantastic pedigree for an internet site and […]

A strange rite of nudity

“In a way, young Dr Highsmith had plenty of warning. He should have known all was not well that day he came home and discovered his wife performing a strange rite of nudity. But Highsmith was too wrapped up in the psychiatric problems of a lovely model named Barbara to be aware what was happening […]

The fMRI smackdown cometh

Over the last few months, the soul searching over the shortcomings of fMRI brain scanning has escaped the backrooms of imaging labs and has hit the mainstream. Numerous articles in hard hitting publications have questioned some common assumptions behind the technology, suggesting a backlash against the bright lights of brain scanning is in full swing. […]


One of the many witty pieces on McSweeney’s, this one on the legendary American writer, Ernest Hemingway. Signs of Impending Suicide That Hemingway’s Friends May Have Overlooked. by Mark Wilcoxson A Farewell to Arms For Whom the Bell Tolls The Old Man and the Sea Link to McSweeney’s post.

Works like a charm

The March edition of HR Magazine has an unintentionally hilarious cover article on ‘The Brain at Work’ which informs us that we can ‘squirt’ neurotransmitters into each others’ brains, tell us how we can reboot dendrites and is strangely obsessed with the basal ganglia. It’s full of fantastic howlers and misplaced metaphors which you’ll have […]

Review of Kluge by Gary Marcus

I respect Gary Marcus’ research tremendously, but I found his latest popular science book glib and unconvincing. For details of why read my review of “Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind” from BBC Focus magazine #191 (July 2008): Link

The science of theory

Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel has written an excellent piece on experimental philosophy, the practice of testing out philosophical ideas by using experiments or gathering data. Now, the more astute of you might be thinking, “isn’t that just science?”, and, you’d be right. Sorta. Schwitzgebel makes the important point that lots of the things that are taken […]

Gazzaniga on split-brains and bioethics

Michael Gazzaniga, one of the founding fathers of cognitive neuroscience and a pioneer of ‘split brain’ research, is interviewed on this week’s ABC All in the Mind where he talks about the use and abuse of ‘left brain – right brain’ metaphors and how our understanding of free will is impacting on the law. Gazzaniga […]


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26,864 other followers