Monthly Archives: August 2008

Attending van Gogh and his asylum art

This month’s British Journal of Psychiatry includes a letter that gives an interesting insight into the relationship between the legendary Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, the three doctors that variously treated him for his epilepsy and insanity, and some of his most famous paintings. Three medical doctors were involved with the treatment of van Gough: […]

Trapped: Mental Illness in America’s Prisons

Photographer Jenn Ackerman has created a stunning and extensive video essay on Kentucky’s correctional facility for prisoners with mental illness, interviewing the inmates, staff and clinicians who form part of America’s biggest provider of residential psychiatry – the prison system. Of course, the prisons were never designed to be providers of mental health care, but […]

Imagining missing limbs helps pain, reorganises brain

Neurology journal Brain has just published an elegant open-access study on how just six weeks of mental imagery training can help reduce phantom limb pain as well as reorganising the sensory and motor maps in the brain. Phantom limbs are when amputees feel sensations that seem to be coming from the missing limb. Sometimes this […]

Don’t get high on your own supply

An article from Forensic Sciences International investigated evidence for addiction in anaesthetists by analysing hair samples. The paper reports on four court cases where anaesthetists were suspended for suspected addiction to the drugs they use to put people to sleep or kill pain during operations. Each case involved hair analysis to gather evidence, owing to […]

Magic in mind

Interest in the cognitive science of magic is really hotting up with Nature Neuroscience having just published a review article jointly authored by some leading cognitive scientists and stage illusionists. They argue that by studying magic, neuroscientists can learn powerful methods to manipulate attention and awareness in the laboratory which could give insights into the […]

Encephalon 51 arrives with a flourish

The rather poetic 51st edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just been published online and is graciously hosted by The Mouse Trap. It has a distinctly poetic theme on this occasion, with a set of cognitive science haikus enlivening proceedings. A couple of my favourite posts include one on the continuing […]

On the edge of truth

Discover Magazine has a brief but interesting interview with ex-NSA psychologist Eric Haseltine, who directed research into interrogation and lie detection. He discusses the use of new technologies that measure body and brain function – i.e. the still not-yet-very-good ‘brain scan lie detectors’ – but also talks about the skills humans need to be able […]

Interview with self-trepanner, Heather Perry

Neurophilosophy has a fantastic interview with Heather Perry, a 37-year old British woman who organised a modern-day trepanation to insert a hole in her skull in an attempt to alter her state of consciousness. Perry gives a lucid insight into her motivations and describes the rather ad-hoc operation in rather gory detail: How exactly did […]

On the brains of the assassins of Presidents

This is a wonderfully written summary that tells the story of how two father-and-son doctors were involved post-mortem brain examinations of the assassins of the US Presidents James Garfield and William McKinley. The article is by neuroanatomist Duane Haines although unfortunately, I haven’t read or even got access to the full paper. Luckily, the abstract […]

Constraining the ancient mind

As part of Seed Magazine’s on innovative thinkers in science, they published a podcast interview with archaeologist Lambros Malafouris who is pioneering the study of ancient cultural artefacts as a way of constraining theories in evolutionary psychology. One of the criticisms of some evolutionary psychology is that it too often involves over-interpretation and ‘just so’ […]

Avalance of new SciAmMind articles

The new edition of Scientific American Mind has just appeared with a whole host of new freely-available articles available online covering the psychology of storytelling, gifted children, genius, animal intelligence, scent, smell and learning through error. My favourite is the article on the psychology of storytelling and narrative, and why it could intricately bound up […]

Cognitive restructuring and the fist bump terrorists

The recently satirical New Yorker cover depicting Obama and his wife as fist-bumping Islamic terrorists comes under fire in an article for The Chronicle by psychologist Mahzarin Banaji who argues that it irresponsibly creates an implicit association between “Obama and Osama”. Banaji is almost certainly right, but neglects higher levels of cognition which can make […]

2008-08-01 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Awesome Developing Intelligence post gives a remarkably concise review of cognitive science and discusses what this tells us about the best targets for cognitive enhancement. BookForum looks at two memoirs that recount the psychological and physical intricacies of illness of the body and brain. […]


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