Monthly Archives: September 2008

Finally, APA bans work on ‘war on terror’ interrogations

After media allegations of psychologists’ role in torture, senior resignations, accusations of rigged committee votes and underhand tactics, a partial condemnation, a clarification, an ‘anti-torture’ candidate standing for the presidency and the forcing of a referendum, the American Psychological Association has finally and unequivocally banned participation of its members in military interrogations after a popular […]

Fearing pharmaceutical modifications

Psychology Today journalist Matthew Hutson covers an interesting study that investigated which drug-based enhancements people are most comfortable with and which changes to the self people view negatively. It seems drugs that potentially change our fundamental character traits are treated with most suspicion whereas those that change our abilities are thought to be the most […]

2008-09-19 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The New York Times discusses the recent case in India where a controversial ‘brain scan lie detection’ test was used to convict someone for murder. Screaming energy! A fan site that reviews energy drinks with, rather predictably, excessive levels of enthusiasm. ‚ÄúThinking about Not-Thinking‚Äù: […]

Electric blue

I’ve just found this fascinating article about how electricity became featured in entertainment shows shortly after it was harnessed and took on an erotic undercurrent, leading to theories of sexuality that attempted to explain the differences between male and female ‘electric fire’. The abstract alone is wonderful to read: Sparks in the dark: the attraction […]

Robotic thoughts

The Economist has a good write-up of a recent PLoS One study that found that the perceived ‘human-ness’ of another player in a game altered the extent of activation in brain areas associated with understanding others’ mental states. The participants were asked to play the prisoner’s dilemma game in a brain scanner and were introduced […]

Neuroaesthetics and the state of the art

Seed Magazine has an excellent article by Mo Costandi discussing how the study of neuroaesthetics – the neuroscience of art and beauty – is really starting to take off with a dedicated research centre recently launched in London. I love the idea of neuroaesthetics but remain a little skeptical, not least because some of the […]

Pump up the vino

PsyBlog has a delightful article discussing whether louder music increases alcohol consumption. It turns out it does, and surprisingly, there seems to have been quite a few studies done to examine the effect. One research group even did a sort of randomised controlled trial on bars and music in a fantastic real-world experiment. One study […]

Social influences on the beautiful face

People in close social groups, such as family and friends, were more likely to agree on the attractiveness of a face, according to an interesting study published in Perception. It’s a novel take on face perception research, which usually implies that there are some general features of attractiveness which we all can perceive, but rarely […]

The divining sage

The New York Times has an interesting piece on salvia divinorum, a powerful psychedelic plant that’s legal in most countries and is widely sold on the internet. The plant is in the same family as sage and mint and was originally used ceremonially by the Mazatec of Mexico for spiritual rituals, owing to its reality […]

Here we are now

BBC Radio 4 have just finished broadcasting Team Spirit, a great series of five 15-minute programmes on the psychology of group dynamics by taking a look at a diverse range of teams – from paramedics to Morris dancers. Each programme looks at specific team chosen to reflect different forms of groups dynamics, meets the people […]

Erotic self-stimulation and brain implants

A 48-year-old woman with a stimulating electrode implanted in her right ventral thalamus started to compulsively self-stimulate when she discovered that it could produce erotic sensations. This is a report from the early days of deep brain stimulation, way back in 1986, from an article for the medical journal Pain which discussed some unintended side-effects […]

Reminiscence competition winner

Congratulations to Jon C, the winner of the tickets to see Reminiscence, which closes at the end of this week on Saturday September 20th. Just a last word on the play to say many thanks to everyone who came along to the post-show science forum last Sunday, it was a pleasure debating with you, and […]

Encephalon 54 is coming home

The 54th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just arrived, this fortnight hosted by its originator at the Neurophilosophy blog. A couple of my favourites include an article by Neuronism on how IBM’s ‘Blue Brain’ large scale neural simulator is showing 40hz gamma band oscillations (oh my God – it’s becoming […]

Songs of Couch and Consultation

“Songs of Couch and Consultation” is a 1961 novelty album of songs about the psychiatric profession by folksinger Katie Lee (who, according to Utah Philips, went on to become an environmental activist and one of the founders of EarthFirst!). The songs are reported to be in dubious taste, but you can hear a sample of […]

Roots of neuroscience in the Bible and Talmud

The July issue of Neurosurgery had a fantastic article that discusses where the brain, nervous system and neurological illness are mentioned in the Bible and Talmud. In some places the nervous system is specifically mentioned, such as where the Bible and Talmud specifically prohibit eating the sciatic nerve from slaughtered animals apparently in deference to […]

A history of the history of madness

Madness and Civilization was a hugely influential book by the French post-modernist philosopher Michel Foucault and is often cited as a key ‘anti-psychiatry’ text owing to its claim that the modern concept of madness was an Enlightenment idea developed to allow the confinement of people that others in society found unacceptable. What I wasn’t aware […]


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