Monthly Archives: October 2008

Escaping down an electrode

Esquire magazine (of all places) has an excellent neuroscience article that discusses the case of Erik Ramsey, a young man with locked-in syndrome whose only hope for communicating with the outside world is a prototype brain computer interface that needs to be implanted directly into his cortex. Locked-in syndrome is a condition that can occur […]

Channelling Colonel Saunders

Shirley Ghostman is a TV psychic whose guests are completely unaware that he’s a spoof and his over-the-top antics are just the creation of comedian Marc Wootton. In one episode he goes up against well-known psychologist and skeptic Chris French whose dry responses turn out to be funnier than Ghostman’s camp send-up. French is head […]

A bolt from the Blue Brain

Seed Magazine has got video of a great talk by Henry Markham, the director of the Blue Brain Project which is developing the world’s largest simulation of networks of individual neurons in an attempt to understand the large scale dynamics of the brain. Their ambition is to be able to run a simulation on the […]

Banjo brain surgery

Surely this must be the greatest headline for a BBC News story ever: Banjo Used in Brain Surgery. Although the banjo wasn’t in the hands of the surgeons it was still an essential part of the operation. It was played by legendary Blue Grass musician Eddie Adcock who was having surgery to install a deep […]

2008-10-10 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Pfizer have been caught manipulating studies. Again. This time for the drug Neurontin. The New York Times has the full story. Neurophilosophy discusses a new way of understanding the neurobiology of hallucinations. An excellent Carl Zimmer article on the genetics of intelligence is available […]

Bogot√° bound

I’m off to Bogot√° to attend the annual conference of the Association of Colombian Psychiatry, so apologies if updates are a little erratic, but I shall try and report back with the highlights here. I’ve been kindly invited to give a talk in a symposium on psychosis where I’ll look forward to getting a distinctly […]

Web therapy

Web Therapy is an incredibly funny and wonderfully made web series about a psychologist who does chaotic three-minute therapy sessions via webcam. It stars Lisa Kudrow, who plays the over-involved Fiona Wallace who can’t quite keep her personal issues out of the sessions. It’s a really simple premise but is a very well observed satire […]

The science of shrinking human heads

I’ve just found a wonderful article on how the Jivaro-Shuar, an indigenous people from the upper Amazon basin, shrink human heads after killing their enemies in battle. It’s from the medical journal Neurosurgery but it’s most fascinating for what it reveals about the complex customs and social relations that surround the practice. The actual head […]

The beauty algorithm and coding for the brain

The New York Times has a fascinating piece on some new software that automatically tweaks pictures of human faces to make them more attractive by reducing the concept of facial beauty to simple vector-based algorithms. The image on the right is a ‘before and after’ picture of the software at work, and the researchers have […]

Ladies and gentlemen we’re floating in space

I just came across these two beautiful images in a paper by neuroscientist Marek Kubicki and colleagues on diffusion tensor imaging studies in schizophrenia. DTI is a technique that using MRI scans to track how water moves throughout the brain. As water tends to move in one particular direction when its trapped inside nerve fibres, […]

The museum of criminal brains

Today’s Nature has a fascinating one page article on the Turin anatomy museums that have the archives of the controversial founder of criminal psychology, Cesare Lombroso, who thought that deviant behaviour was imprinted in the face and brain from birth. Lombroso had the theory that criminals were biologically defective, and that these defects – and […]

Everything I know about psychiatry, I learnt from heavy metal

If mental illness doesn’t exist, how come the dark forces of heavy metal know so much about it? Almost the whole range of psychopathology can be found on the cover of heavy metal albums. You may never need buy a psychiatry textbook again. Are you listening Thomaz Szasz? Are you?  

I have a hunch, but I’m just working out when to use it

The Boston Globe has an interesting piece on differing decision-making styles and how cognitive science is increasingly recognising the role of emotion in making choices. It’s shoehorned into a slightly dubious Obama vs McCain premise, but it covers the important relationship between more conscious reflective forms of problem analysis, and more intuitive forms of approach. […]

Viral brain cancer theory comes of age

The San Francisco Chronicle has a great article about Dr Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon who had the seemingly wacky idea that malignant brain tumours called gliomas might be caused by a viral infection. Initially dismissed, there is now growing evidence for his idea and how it might lead to better prevention and treatment for these […]

Deep brain optimism

A list of things that deep brain stimulation has been used to treat. DBS involves surgically implanting an electrode into the brain which is stimulated with a ‘pacemaker’ like device. I’ve just been looking over the DBS literature and I was quite surprised to see that it has been used to try and treat just […]

An intuitive sense of humour

I’ve just discovered a delightful <a href=" “>article by English comedian Stewart Lee on why British people don¬¥t get German humour. He argues that the English language is full of ambiguities and that many jokes rely on resolving these in ways which are much less possible in the German language owing to the sentence […]


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