Monthly Archives: July 2008

It is scientists who seek to get heaven in their heads

The wonderful image is an original drawing by the artist Masonic Boom, aka Kate St.Claire, as part of her series of psychological self portraits. The quote in the image is from the author and philosopher G.K. Chesterton. He was once asked by The Times to write an article on ‘What is wrong with the world?’ […]

The theatre of hysteria

I’m currently reading Elaine Showalter’s book Hystories, a cultural history of the concept of ‘hysteria‘, a term which has variously described the supposed effects of a ‘wandering womb’, unexplained neurological symptoms, panic, nervousness or just ‘making a fuss’. She describes where medicine and media have collided, and highlights how popular interest in the condition has […]

The Maudsley cat

The not very good photo is of Coco, the Maudsley Hospital cat and one in a long line of felines who reside in psychiatric hospitals. Not all psychiatric hospitals have cats, but they’re not uncommon and exist as a sort of informal tradition of live-in feline therapy. They’re very popular with both staff and patients, […]

Promising Alzheimer’s drug announced

The results of a moderate sized trial on a new Alzheimer’s drug have just been announced and the results, if reliable, may suggest that the treatment is one of the most important medical breakthroughs of the century. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, a degenerative disorder of where the brain starts to degrade more […]

Is the cinematograph making us stupid?

I’ve just found an eye-opening 2003 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the work on 19th century neurologists George Beard and Silas Weir Mitchell, who thought the pace of life and the effect of new technology was harming the mind and brain of citizens in 1800s America – echoing similar concerns […]

A party game that goes down like a red balloon

I just found this clever advert for The Economist which has an immediate impact but kinda becomes a bit awkward if you think about it for too long. Presumably, it’s meant to convey the idea that the magazine is ‘mind expanding’. But as we mentioned in an earlier post, we tend to ascribe different sorts […]

Juggling can change brain structure within 7 days

A new study just published in PLoS One reports that learning to juggle alters the structure of motion detection areas in the brain within as little as 7 days. Led by neuroscientist Joenna Driemeyer, the study builds on a previous research that also found juggling could alter brain structure, although this previous study waited three […]

Detecting suicidal intent in the unconscious mind

The Situationist has just alerted me to a fantastic article in the Boston Globe on the development a cognitive test for suicidal thoughts that doesn’t rely solely on the conscious mind. The test is a variant of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) that has been used to look at our automatic associations between different concepts, […]

Waterfalls, adaptation and light

Firstly, you’ll have to excuse the somewhat ‘in house’ nature of this post, as it’s me writing about Christian writing about Tom. It’s an account of Tom giving an address to the Association for the Teaching of Psychology where he conducted a fantastic demonstration of how you can test out whether your brain adapts to […]

Silence, but for the clouds moving across the sky

Lee Tracy is an artist who creates poems out of brain scans. The image is from a 2006 exhibition called Negative to Positive that was shown in the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago. Each image is an CT scan of the artist’s brain, mounted in a light box and etched with a statement […]

Six impossible things before breakfast

An unintentionally funny headline from a University College London press release. Statement of scientific findings or the effect of too many parties? Our grip on reality is slim, says UCL scientist

Whatever happened to symptom substitution?

Symptom substitution is at the core of Freudian psychology but according to a new article in Clinical Psychology Review there is virtually no evidence for its existence and the concept should be abandoned. The idea is that if you treat a symptom, say a phobia of social situations, without addressing the underlying conflict, another symptom […]

Strippers for taxation reform

Frontal Cortex has an excellent post on the near futility of election coverage and why people tend to vote with what they feel, rather than what they know. The piece reviews a whole range of studies that have highlighted possible non-issue influences on people’s voting preferences, from the weather to the facial expressions of news […]

Is banking on neuroscience a false economy?

The Economist has a great article taking a wide-angle view of neuroeconomics, asking whether it actually contributes anything useful to our understanding of economic systems or whether its just a personal psychology of gains and losses that won’t actually scale. The fiercest attack on neuroeconomics, and indeed behavioural economics, has come from two economists at […]

2008-07-25 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Neurophilosophy has a beautiful quote from the great Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal. The miseries of losing one’s sense of smell are covered by an interesting Slate article on this neglected sense. Cognitive Daily looks at a study which attempts to answer the […]

Misdirected magic

Just one more on the magic. I just got this email from Mind Hacks readers Stefano suggesting that stage magicians that use psychological language actually pollute the public’s understanding of science. He also gives a much better, and, I’m guessing, more accurate explanation of the hand-raising trick in Keith Barry’s TED performance. As a psychologist, […]

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