Monthly Archives: March 2009

Misfortunes, Troubles, Disappointments

I’m just reading Lisa Appignanesi’s so-far excellent book Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present where she reproduces an 1810 table of causes of insanity from London’s Bethlem Hospital on p54. It was compiled by the physician William Black and lists various afflictions that have apparently […]

Symbol of remembrance triggers mass false memory

There’s an interesting short research report in Cortex about how a national symbol adopted in Italy after the 1980 terrorist bombing of Bologna train station likely instilled a false memory about the following 16 years. On the morning of August 2nd, 1980, at 10.25, a bomb exploded in Bologna Centrale station, killing eighty-five people wounding […]

Rendered frantic, crazy by unbroken concentration

Advances in the History of Psychology has just alerted me to a fascinating short article on the work of the influential 18th-century physician Samuel Tissot, who wrote a book arguing that concentrating on books for too long damaged the mind. The 18th century was when books were becoming cheap enough to be widely available to […]

The attractions of humour

The new edition of Scientific American Mind is out an it has an excellent cover article on the psychological effects of humour and laughter. It’s a remarkably wide-ranging article, covering everything from the effect on the immune system, to laughter’s pain killing properties to its beneficial effect on mental health. There’s also an interesting aside […]

On the frontiers with the neural gene mappers

Wired has an excellent article on the Allen Institute for Brain Science’s ambitious mission to map where each gene is expressed in the brain. We tend to think of genes in terms of their ability to pass on characteristics to new generations, but the moment the egg and the sperm combine, genes start coding for […]

Nothing but a G thing

The New York Times has an obituary for Earl Wood, the man who invented the G-suit, the pressurised suit for fighter pilots that prevents them losing consciousness when g-forces drain blood from the brain. The problem became apparent as fighter plane technology advanced to the stage where they became so fast and manoeuvrable that pulling […]

Copyshop suicide

Bad Science has a great article on the ‘copycat suicide’ effect, where media reporting of suicide can increase the chances of suicide in other people. Copycat suicide is sometimes called the ‘Werther Effect’, after Goethe published his 1774 novel ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ which depicted Werther’s suicide and was reportedly followed by people imitating […]

Neurosurgeon has mid-operation heart attack, continues

BBC News is reporting that neurosurgeon Claudio Vitale had a heart-attack during an operation to remove a brain tumour, but continued with the surgery as he knew the patient wouldn’t recover if he left the theatre. According to reports, Mr Vitale started to feel chest pains part way through the operation at Naples’ Cardarelli Hospital. […]

Focus me

The Journal of Sex Research has a fascinating article on the role of attention in sexual arousal and how we use our mental focus to explore and control excitement during sex. We can see from our everyday lives that attention is important for sex. We can distract ourselves to avoid sexual arousal when our mind […]

2009-03-27 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Brain Hammer is on fire at the moment, lots of great posts on philosophy of mind. Dodgy fMRI ‘lie detection’ evidence to be submitted as evidence in court, reports Frontal Cortex and piece from Wired. Next in court, lie detection through reading the clouds. […]

Where time becomes a loop

New Scientist has an excellent article on the neuroscience of deja vu, tackling how our brain can generate the anomalous feeling that we are reliving an event when it has happened for the first time. The article tackles both experiments that try to trigger and measure deja vu in healthy participants, as well as in […]

Much madness is divinest sense

I’ve just found this fantastic poem by 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, where she discusses the link between conformity and madness. Madness is defined partly in terms of what we consider normal and one of the great critiques of psychiatry is that it is used a method of control over those who do not […]

Why children don’t make us happy (on average)

The Psychologist has a counter-intuitive article on research that indicates, contrary to popular belief, that having children tends not to make people happier. In fact, parents reliably report that they feel less happy than in their child free days, and less happy when compared to childless couples. Over the past few decades, social scientists like […]

Tonic to aphrodisiac to energy drink

The journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine has an interesting open-access article about guarana, a stimulating Amazonian berry that was used by the local peoples but is now a global ingredient in energy drinks and ‘aphrodisiacs’. It is often advertised as an ingredient in energy drinks to make them sound more ‘exotic’ or ‘natural’, but […]

Encephalon 66 with just the facts, ma’am

The 66th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival was published a few days ago and I’m only just catching up with the world. However, it’s got a great round-up of some of the best mind and brain blogging and is hosted by Ionian Enchantment. A couple of my favourites include Neurotopia on […]

For the sake of Ritalin

Don’t Believe the Hype by hip hop group Public Enemy has a line which is often misheard as “I don’t rhyme for the sake of Ritalin”, when, in fact, the lyrics say “I don’t rhyme for the sake of riddlin’”. I’ve just noticed that The Roots‘ track False Media, gives a clever nod to this […]


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