Monthly Archives: April 2009

From the four humours to fMRI

The excellent Cognition and Culture blog found a fascinating lecture by the energetic medical historian Noga Arikha about the four humours theory of medicine and how its legacy influences our modern day ideas about the mind and brain. The four humours theory suggested that the function of the mind and body was determined by the […]

Phantom portraits

I’ve just found a gallery of one of my favourite art science projects of all time which used digital photo manipulation to illustrate the phantom limbs of post-amputation patients. The images are incredibly striking, because they vividly illustrate that phantom limbs are often only phantom part-limbs. Sections can be missing, even in the middle, so […]

Reverse psychology in a pill: anti-placebo

You may be aware of the placebo effect, where an inert pill has an effect because of what the patient thinks it does. You may even be aware of the nocebo effect, where an inert pill causes ‘side-effects’. But a fascinating 1970 study reported evidence for the anti-placebo effect, where an inert pill has the […]

Taking pride in your posture

A simple but elegant study just published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that getting people to generate words about pride caused them to unknowingly raise their posture, while asking them to generate words about disappointment led to an involuntary slouch. The research team, led by psychologist Suzanne Oosterwijk, asked people to list […]

The medieval senses and the evil eye

The latest edition of neurology journal Brain has an extended review of three books about the history of the senses which gives a fascinating insight into how the meaning of our sensory experiences has changed over the centuries. This paragraph is particularly interesting as it relates medieval theories of perception to the superstition of the […]

Predicting the determined self-castrator

The Journal of Sexual Medicine has a surprising study looking at psychological attributes that predict which castration enthusiasts who will actually go on to remove their own testicles, in contrast to those who just fantasise about it. This is the abstract from the scientific paper: A passion for castration: characterizing men who are fascinated with […]

Inside Britain’s highest security psychiatric hospital

The Independent has an article giving a rare look inside Broadmoor Hospital, one of only four high security psychiatric hospital in the UK, which houses some of the most severely dangerous offenders with mental illness. Broadmoor is the oldest and most well-known high secure hospital in Britain, having housed a string of high profile murders […]

The risks of cognitive enchantment

The New Yorker has a fantastic in-depth article about ‘cognitive enhancement’ that talks to some of the neuroscientists studying the effects and some of the mind tweakers who regularly pop pills to give themselves an edge. One of the issues it touches on is whether cognitive enhancers really ‘enhance’ people, and there’s good evidence that […]

Choice blindness

New Scientist has a fascinating article on some ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ research that looks at how we justify our choices, even when the thing we’ve chosen has been unknowingly swapped. It turns out, most of the time we don’t notice the change and precede to give reasons for why the thing we […]

Seized by the anti-storm

Newsweek has an excellent article on the neuroscience and personal impact of epilepsy. It’s well-researched, gripping in parts and bang up-to-date as it takes us through how neurologists tackle the seizure-prone brain. I was particularly impressed by the following section as it avoids the common clich√© of the epileptic ‘brain storm’ because, as we’ve discussed […]

Moses extreme reactions

Some statistical tests with wonderful names. From SPSS, one of the standard data analysis software packages used by psychologists. Kendall’s W Cochran’s Q LSD post-hoc Two-step cluster Fisher’s exact test Wald-Wolfowitz runs Moses extreme reactions UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who has added to our list of wonderfully named statistical tests used by psychologists. Grabbed from […]

Psychologists central to war on terror interrogations

The Washington Post has an article exploring recently released ‘war on terror’ interrogation memos, showing that “psychologists, physicians and other health officials” played a key part in interrogations widely condemned as torture. It’s an interesting revelation because during the long debates, and some say heal-dragging, over whether the American Psychological Association should ban its members […]

Mad, Bad and Sad: A Historical Romance

Lisa Appignanesi’s book Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present is a romantic tour through the last 200 years of psychiatry and the feminine, although probably not in the sense you’re thinking of. The romantic movement was a literary and artistic phenomena that emerged in […]

2009-04-17 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The neuroscience of envy and schadenfreude is explored by Pure Pedantry. The Economist has an article on connectomics and the project to create a complete white matter map of the brain. Panic! The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology has an article on drinking […]

A classification of royal stalkers

A fascinating new study on the types of people who stalk or harass the British Royal Family has just been published online by the journal Psychological Medicine. A group of forensic psychologists examined, by hand, twenty thousand files held by SO14, the Metropolitan Police Service’s Royalty Protection unit, to study people who had made inappropriate […]

Head first into brain scanner technology

Nature has a great open-access article on the technology of MRI neuroimaging, responsible for the majority of ‘brain scans’ that are used in medical examinations, scientific studies and media reports. Understanding the technology of MRI scanners is not just of interest to medtech geeks, it is essential to be able to interpret and design brain […]


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