Monthly Archives: August 2008


Anthropologist Michael Wesch gave a thoughtful and engaging talk on ‘An anthropological introduction to YouTube’ to the Library of Congress earlier this year and, rather appropriately, it’s available online as a video on the popular video sharing site. Wesh runs a digital ethnography project which looks at how cultures form and operate on the net. […]

‘Anti-torture’ candidate to run for APA presidency

Despite the American Psychological Association revising their ethics policy twice in the debate over American psychologists’ participation in war-on-terror interrogations, significant unrest still remains over the fact the APA has yet to actually enforce its reluctantly implemented ban. The Boston Globe has an op-ed article by psychologist and APA critic Stephen Soldz who notes that […]

Hypnosis addiction: the scourge of the Victorian lady

I’m currently reading the wonderful but very long book The Discovery of the Unconscious which I shall post more about later. However, I noticed this little gem about hypnosis in the late 1800s which just smacks of the current hand-wringing over the non-existent (or rather can’t-existent) ‘internet addiction’. The problems described are so obviously not […]

Interrupting Napoleon on the genetics of mental illness

Today’s Nature has got an interesting letter on psychiatric genetics suggesting an interesting approach to studying the genetics of mental illness. It’s from neuroscientists John McGrath and Jean-Paul Selten and comments on an earlier Nature article which we discussed previously. Napoleon Bonaparte advised: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Those of […]

FBI’s Most Wanted neuroscientist on imitation

Aafia Siddiqui was the FBI’s Most Wanted Woman for several years and is currently in US custody in New York, awaiting trial on charges that she is a terrorist and member of Al-Qaeda. She is also a neuroscientist and co-authored a scientific paper in 2005 on the cognitive science of imitation learning. Before her recent […]

The common language of pride and shame

Wired Science covers an elegant study that suggests that spontaneous expressions of pride and shame are innate behaviours that are not significantly influenced by culture. The researchers came up with the ingenious idea of comparing how judo wrestlers from the 2004 Olympics and blind judo wrestlers from the 2004 Paralympics celebrated and commiserated their matches. […]

George Lakoff and the linguistics wars

George Lakoff is famous for being one of the founding fathers of cognitive linguistics, for battling Noam Chomsky, and for arguing that using the right metaphors is the key to winning a political debate. He’s profiled in an article for the Chronical Review which serves as a fantastic introduction to the man, his work and […]

Mainlining the active ingredients of cannabis

I’ve uploaded a fascinating video clip where a TV presenter is intravenously injected with the active ingredients of cannabis as part of the BBC documentary Should I Smoke Dope? It’s part of an experiment to compare the effects of intravenous THC and cannabidiol combined, with intravenous THC on its own. The mix of both gives […]

Parapsychology in a nutshell

Today’s featured article on Wikipedia is a rather splendid article on parapsychology – the scientific study of the supposed paranormal phenomena of the mind. Academic parapsychology is notable for the exceptional quality of the experiments it conducts and the inconclusive nature of its findings – at least to mainstream science. Large reviews of many studies […]

Cannibalism, prions and encephalopathy (oh my!)

Cannabalism gave Western medicine its first understanding of prion diseases as an epidemic of the neurological disorder swept the South Fore tribe in Papua New Guinea. Neurophilosophy has written a remarkably lucid article on the history and neuroscience of how prion diseases, of which ‘mad cow disease’ is one, affect the brain. The piece starts […]

The best is yet to come: reward prediction in the brain

Jonah Lehrer has written an excellent piece for the latest issue of Seed Magazine on the work of neuroscientist Read Montague who’s been discovering the essential function of dopamine in predicting rewards. Reward prediction is the process where dopamine neurons fire when a reward is expected and also seem to code the amount of error […]

Digital drugs emergency – paging Dr. Beat

USA Today has an unintentionally hilarious article on the dangers of ‘digital drugs’ that can supposedly mimic the effects of alcohol, marijuana, LSD, crack, heroin, sex, heaven and hell. Woohoo! I hear you shout, before realising the article is actually a woefully misinformed piece about binaural beats, a fascinating but harmless phenomenon when two pure […]


Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a fantastic theatre company and some amazingly talented composers to help develop a play called Reminiscence about a woman who hallucinates music after developing temporal lobe epilepsy. The play premiers in London on September 9th and will be accompanied by talks discussing the neuroscience […]

Recreational drug preference linked to medical speciality

Following our piece on several cases of drug addiction in anaesthetists, I just found some interesting studies on how recreational drug preference varies between medical specialities. It seems working in psychiatry and emergency medicine is linked to the highest rates of drug use, with surgeons having some of the lowest levels. This study seems to […]

2008-08-08 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Language Log has an excellent piece on another reason why the amphetamine methylphenidate (Ritalin) may be popular as a study drug – apart from its boost to wakefulness it might actually improve some forms of learning. Genes for schizophrenia uncovered. Again! Scientific American reports […]

Rolling thunder

Neurophilosophy covers the discovery of a new type of synaesthesia – where movement is experienced as sound. In fact, the researchers have put the test online so you can test yourself. Synaesthesia is where the senses are ‘crossed’ so people might experience visual figures, such as letters, as tastes. This is one type, but letter […]


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