Monthly Archives: June 2008

You get what you pay for

This week’s Bad Science rounds-up several intriguing studies that have found that money does more than make the world go round, it changes how we think, feel and perceive. The piece looks at several studies where participants paid more, or thought they were getting something of a ‘higher value’, even though there was no actual […]

Loaded dice in gambling addiction research

‘Who says Americans don’t do irony?’ I joked the other week, noting the National Center for Responsible Gaming conference on gambling addiction was being held in Las Vegas. According to an article in Salon, the joke has fallen a little flat, as the NCRG is funded by the gambling industry and may have a vested […]

Bling of the hill

The Atlantic magazine has an interesting article on how conspicuous consumption – the practice of showing off luxury goods – differs across social groups and seems to be more common when your peers are low earners. The piece discusses work led by economist Kerwin Charles who was interested in why, despite being less well off […]

Northern Ireland health chief, homosexuality an illness

Homosexuality is a mental illness, at least according to the head of Northern Ireland’s health committee. Iris Robinson MP, who, with impeccable timing, put forth her views on a radio show while responding to the news that a local man had been badly beaten in a homophobic attack. After apparently branding homosexuality as “disgusting, loathsome, […]

Best visual illusion of the year announced

Mixing Memory has alerted me to the fact that the winner of the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest has been announced, and what a fantastic illusion it is. It’s an animated one, so you need to go to the page and stare at the dot in the centre for 20-30 seconds. The creators […]

Culture shock

Neuroanthropology has an excellent article on how culture influences the experience of trauma, particularly in light of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. We tend to think of trauma as being similar across cultures. Something awful happens, we have ‘trauma’. In actual fact, both the experience and expression of trauma […]

2008-06-13 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week or so in mind and brain news: A fascinating personal account of ‘supposed demoniacal possession‘ from an 1849 edition of the Journal of Psychological Medicine. ‘Key to All Optical Illusions Discovered’ says over-enthusiastic headline for very interesting article. An article in Seed Magazine discusses quantum physics and whether we […]

Serious threats distinguished by style over substance

Last September’s Journal of Forensic Sciences had an intriguing study comparing email and handwritten threats to members of the United States Congress. While threats by letter were more thoughtfully composed, they need to taken more seriously as they were more often followed by a threatening physical approach and more frequently written by people with a […]

Consciousness happens between the panels

A letter in today’s New Scientist noted that artist Scott McCloud’s comments on how we infer the narrative from comic strips might also explain how consciousness works. It reminded me of this panel from McCloud’s book Understanding Comics. Understanding Comics is about the visual language of comic books and is written as a comic. It’s […]

Language specific madness

I’ve just found this fascinating study on language and psychosis that found that multilingual psychotic patients can present with either different or less psychotic symptoms depending on the language they use. It’s a 2001 study from The British Journal of Medical Psychology that collected existing case studies from the medical literature and reports on several […]

Tripping with Jeff Warren

Bookslut has an interview with Jeff Warren, author the excellent The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness, a book I raved about last year after having a copy thrust into my hand by Tom. It sounds like a recipe for disaster on the surface – a guy writing about his altered states charted […]

Synapse structure varies across species

The New York Times covers new research which has found significant cross-species variation in the structure of the synapse – the chemical ‘connection points’ that allow neurons to communicate. The study itself has been published in Nature Neuroscience and the full text is available online for those who want the in-depth science. A whole new […]

Web making us worried, but probably not stupid

The cover article of this month’s Atlantic magazine argues that our increasing reliance on internet technology means we’re becoming less able to focus and absorb ourselves in a task because we’re so used to mentally ‘jumping around’. It’s a common concern, but is almost entirely devoid of evidence. Similar arguments have been put forward before, […]

Long live the new Encephalon! Edition 47 arrives

According to the 1983 movie Videodrome, the television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. The latest edition of psychology and neuroscience writing carnival Encephalon is hosted by the Channel N video blog, showing us that the online video screen is equally a window into the psyche. An article on a rather dubious link […]

Uncle Clonazepam’s Army

This week’s Time magazine has a cover article on ‘America’s Medicated Army’, discussing the widespread use of antidepressant and anxiety-reducing drugs in US Army troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The saying goes that ‘military psychiatry is to psychiatry what military music is to music’, and, certainly, military mental health clinicians have quite different objectives to […]

Memes exist: tell your friends

High-end talking shop, TED, has a couple of video lectures on ‘memes‘ – the supposedly self-contained units of information, ideas or actions that replicate through human culture and are selected by a process akin to natural selection. The first is by philosopher Daniel Dennett from 2002, while the second is from earlier this year and […]


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