Monthly Archives: August 2008

Through a lab darkly

Cognitive scientists should be explorers of the mind, forging a path through the chaotic world of everyday life before even thinking of retreating to the lab, according to a critical article in the latest edition of the British Journal of Psychology. Cognitive science often works like this: researchers notice something interesting in the world, they […]

Computers cause abnormal brain growth – proof!

I have discovered shocking evidence that computers are affecting the brain. After extensive research, I have discovered the problem is remarkably specific and I have isolated it to an individual brain area affected by one particular application. Microsoft Word is causing abnormal growth in the frontal lobes. The cingulate cortex is a part of the […]

Minds and myths

The September issue of The Psychologist has two excellent and freely available articles that smash the popular myths of scientific psychology. The first examines the widely mythologised story of hole-in-the head celebrity Phineas Gage, and the other tackles commonly repeated stories of famous studies that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Gage, whose skull is pictured […]

2008-08-29 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Choreography and Cognition is a project examining the cognitive science of dance. Try this for some experimental data. Get down. The myth of undecided voters is tackled head on by Frontal Cortex. Gin, Television and Cognitive Surplus. No, not a traditional English weekend, an […]

Count ’em

Wikipedia has a short but fascinating page listing animals by the number of neurons they have. There’s only about a dozen entries on there, but most interesting is that there is an animal with no nerve cells at all. It’s called Trichoplax and apparently is a “a simple balloon-like marine animal with a body cavity […]

Wilder Penfield – charting the brain’s unknown territory

Neurophilosophy has a stimulating article on Wilder Penfield, the legendary Canadian neurosurgeon who pionered neuropsychological studies on the awake patient during brain surgery. Penfield is most famous for his experiments where he electrically stimulated the brain of patients who had part of their skull removed during surgery to record what thoughts, behaviours and sensations arose […]

Unreality TV and the culture of delusions

Today’s New York Times has an interesting article on the tug-of-war over the cultural influence on paranoid delusions and whether contemporary-themed psychosis is a new form of mental illness or just a modern colouring of an old disorder. The article focuses on the recent interest in the ‘Truman Show delusion’, splashed over the media by […]

The music’s too loud and you can’t hear the lyrics

Today’s Nature has a teeth-grittingly bitchy review of psychologist Daniel Levitin’s new music and psychology book The World In Six Songs that would be entertaining were it not so surprisingly vitriolic. I’ve not read the book, but when someone is criticising the author’s musical taste as immature, not once, but twice, in the world’s leading […]

Who needs sleep? The evolutionary slumber party

PLoS Biology has a cozy essay entitled “Is Sleep Essential?” that addresses the mystery of the purpose of sleep. The article looks at sleep across the whole of the animal kingdom to examine how different species sleep and whether there are any animals that don’t sleep at all. There are no convincing cases of sleepless […]

Extracting the stone of madness

Art-science blog Bioemphemera has an excellent piece on how Renaissance artists depicted madness as involving a stone in the head. Numerous paintings from the 16th and 17th century show operations to remove the stone and presumably cure the insane of their ‘folly’. Despite the widespread depiction of this procedure, many examples of which are wonderfully […]


Somatosphere is an excellent new blog on medical anthropology, the study of how culture influences our understanding of health, illness and medicine. While we tend to think of illnesses as specific encapsualted ‘things’ that happen to the body, it turns out that our culture and psychology has a huge influence on not just what we […]

Book review: Sight Unseen

I cannot recommend strongly enough Goodale & Milner’s book on vision ‘Sight Unseen’. The title refers to the idea they pursue throughout the book that our everyday conception of vision is thoroughly misleading. Rather than vision just being ‘what we experience’, it is, in fact, a collection of specific eye-behaviour links (‘visuomotor functions’) of which […]

Reminiscence rising

I had the pleasure of seeing the initial run-through of the upcoming London play Reminiscence on Friday and was completely blown away. Inspired by a case study by world-renowned neurologist, Oliver Sacks (from his book, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat), Reminiscence is the story of Mrs O‚ÄôConnor who, in a bizarre […]

Kanizsa kiwi

A brilliant illustration of the Kanizsa triangle made out of kiwi fruit by Flickr user Yves Moreaux. The Kanizsa triangle is often used to argue that a purely ‘bottom-up’ approach to understanding vision – that says we generate our perception solely from building up from the small details of what we see – is flawed. […]

The alpha and omega of Crick and consciousness

I just found a touching tribute to Francis Crick published in PLoS Biology in 2004 that also describes some little know aspects of his life during his study of consciousness. One fascinating part of the article discusses his meeting with David Marr, a brilliant young neuroscientist who was fated both to revolutionise our understanding of […]

Great history of brain surgery programme online

The BBC has just begun broadcasting a fantastic series called Blood and Guts on the history of surgery with the first episode on neurosurgery. If you live in the UK you can watch it again on the BBC iPlayer for a few days more, or otherwise, it has appeared online as a torrent. It’s not […]


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