Monthly Archives: January 2009

Shattered delusions

I’ve just found a fascinating article in the History of Psychiatry about a type of delusion that was widely reported in the 15th to 17th centuries but rarely occurs in modern times. The reports were of patients who believed that they were made of glass and thought they might shatter if they suffered even the […]

Legal threat for criticising neurobabble ‘lie detector’

Francisco Lacerda is a professor of phonetics and the author of an academic article criticising the use of the unproven voice analysis ‘life detector’ technology in the legal system. He highlighted “discrepancies between the claims the producers and vendors make and what their products are capable of delivering” and as a result, is now being […]

2009-01-30 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The BPS Research Digest reports on how the weather can affect our memory. Hallucinations, psychosis found as rare side-effect of ADHD drugs in children, reports The Washington Post. Study abstract here. The New York Times reports that coffee intake is associated with a lower […]

New SciAmMind on play, placebo, lies and illusion

The new edition of the excellent Scientific American Mind has just hit the shelves and several of the feature articles are freely available online – covering the psychology of play, some fascinating new research on the placebo effect, the quest to build a brain scan lie detector and several other fantastic reports. I found the […]

‘Internet addiction’ lacks validity finds another study

Dr Shock covers a new study examining the validity of one of the most popular methods for diagnosing ‘internet addiction’, Young‚Äôs Diagnostic Questionnaire, finding it lacks even the most basic ability to distinguish between frequent and infrequent net users. Validity is one of the essential components of a psychological measure. It refers to whether it […]

The economics of crack hustling

I just found this fascinating TED lecture by economist Steven Levitt on the social structure and economics of ghetto crack dealing. What’s surprising is that hustling rocks is a below-minimum-wage occupation with a 7% per annum employee death rate – despite the hype, a very shitty job. Levitt is famous for being one of the […]

War trauma and brain impact

Although much of The Telegraph’s science coverage seems to have gone down the pan recently, they’ve just published a remarkably well balanced and informative article on war trauma and how it is associated with measurable changes in brain structure. Brain imaging studies have found that people with post-traumatic stress disorder tend to have smaller hippocampi, […]

The Straight Dope on Learning Styles

The glorious truth is that people think and learn differently. Some people like words, but not pictures, some like movements rather than sounds. Why are people different? Who knows, perhaps because Allah loves wondrous variety. A funny thing is that we have the tendency to ignore this fact. Perhaps because empathy is difficult, perhaps because […]

Giant killing

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer are about to settle a legal case brought by the US Government over illegal promotion of their now withdrawn painkiller Bextra (valdecoxib) for a staggering $2.3 billion. This follows the news that Eli Lilly have just settled a similar case against them for a previous […]

Neuroimaging, before the invention of television

Neuroscience textbooks often suggest that the ability to image the structure of the brain in living patients started in the 1970s with the introduction of the CT scanner. What they tend to forget is that brain surgeon Walter Dandy was already neuroimaging patients as early as 1918. We think of x-rays as only being useful […]

Complex beginnings

The term ‘complex’, used to refer to a mental illness or psychological hang-up, has become so common as to have entered everyday language (e.g. ‘he has an inferiority complex’) but I only just recently found out about the origin of the concept. The following is from the epic and endlessly fascinating book The Discovery of […]

Irrational reading

Science writer Jonah Lehrer has a short but useful piece in the Wall Street Journal where he recommends five must-read books on irrational decision-making. Lehrer is well placed to be making recommendations as he’s recently been completely immersed in the science of decision-making to write his newly released book How We Decide. The five books […]

Electricity, let it wash all over me

I’ve just found a fantastic article that discusses the representation of epilepsy in contemporary rock and hip hop. It was published last year in the neurology journal Epilepsy and Behaviour and is both fascinating and funny owing to the contrast between the stuffy academic journal style and the lyrics drawn from the street. For example, […]

Corseting female sexuality

The New York Times has an interesting and in-depth article on research into female sexuality that looks at the work of some of the most prominent female researchers in the field. It does a great job of discussing the often surprising results of recent scientific studies but a commentary on Neuroanthropology really nails why it […]

I don’t like Mondays

The defenders of Bullshit Blue Monday tend to suggest that even if the formula is nonsense, it promotes awareness of mental health at a time of the year when people are feeling particularly low. In light of this, today’s Bad Science column discusses the research on mood and time of year and finds there’s no […]

2009-01-23 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: New Scientist has an interesting piece on progress in human-like interaction by machines. Check the impressive video. UK psychologist Oliver James discusses his polemic book on the psychological effects of materialism on BBC Radio 4’s Bookclub. See programme page and sidebar for listen again. […]


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