Monthly Archives: May 2009

Synaesthesia in Frankenstein

One of the new ideas in synaesthesia research is that affected people perhaps don’t develop mixed senses as their brains develop, they just fail to lose them. It seems most children might start with naturally mixed senses before perception becomes segregated through pruning of the fuzzy neural pathways. I’ve just noted an interesting article in […]

Mad honey

I’ve just discovered there’s a form of neurotoxic honey, genuinely known as “mad honey“, created by bees taking nectar from the beautiful rhododendron ponticum flower, pictured on the right. The nectar from these plants, prevalent around the Black Sea region of Turkey, occasionally contains grayanotoxins, a class of neurotoxin that interferes with the action potential […]

The demon drink

Oh dear. It looks like psychologist Glenn Wilson has fallen off the wagon again. From the man who brought you the ’email hurts IQ more than cannabis’ PR stunt before repenting, comes the ‘the way you hold your drink reveals personality’ PR stunt. This time it’s to promote a British pub chain and God bless […]

2009-05-29 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: HBO launches the awesome Alzheimer’s Project online. Video, documentary, facts, stories. Very nicely put together. Teen mental health and mindfulness are the focus of a recent ABC Radio National Health Report. The LA Times has more on the ongoing <a href="Psychiatrists rewriting the mental […]

Valuing the unusual illness debate

One of the particular joys of psychiatry is the regular ritual where a small but determined group of researchers try and get their idea for a new diagnosis accepted into the DSM. The most recent outbreak has hit the LA Times where a short article notes the proposal for ‘posttraumatic embitterment disorder’. The idea for […]

Winning the vaccine wars

PLoS Biology has an excellent article on the social factors behind how recent vaccination scares sparked off and continue, despite them having no scientific basis and having been repeatedly proved incorrect. I’m morbidly fascinated by the autism scares because they are meeting of two very different forms of systems in which to think about knowledge. […]

The phantom from the battle field

The Lancet recently published a fantastic article on one of the earliest cases of phantom limb. It was written by American Civil War surgeon Silas Weir Mitchell but not as a study in a medical journal, but as a short story in a popular magazine. The story was titled The Case of George Dedlow in […]

Evolving causal belief

There’s an interesting letter in this week’s edition of Nature from biologist Lewis Wolpert making the speculative but interesting claim that the development of causal belief may have been a key turning point in human evolution. Wolpert is responding to a recent Nature essay critiquing the idea that closely related species will have evolved similar […]

All smoke and mirror neurons?

New Scientist has a tantalising snippet reporting on a shortly to be released and potentially important new study challenging the idea of ‘mirror neurons’. Mirror neurons fire both when we perform an action and when we see someone else doing it. The theory is that by simulating action even when watching an act, the neurons […]

Changes to psychiatrists’ diagnostic ‘bible’ hinted at

PsychCentral reports on the likely changes to appear in the DSM-V, the new version of the psychiatrist’s diagnostic manual, due out in 2012 and discussed in a recent presentation in last week’s American Psychiatric Association annual conference. The most significant change proposed has to do with the inclusion of dimensional assessments for depression, anxiety, cognitive […]

Russian roulette in the medical literature

I’ve just discovered there’s a small medical literature on deaths by Russian roulette, where people put one bullet in a revolver, spin the chamber, put the gun to their head and pull the trigger. A recent article from the The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology has a 10-year case review covering 24 deaths […]

Freestyle Lehrer

Edge has an excellent interview with science writer Jonah Lehrer who riffs on consciousness, the joy of discovery, the importance of the marshmallows in psychology and how he fell in love with science. It’s interesting because rarely do science writers get the opportunity to give their own opinions on the big questions in neuroscience, despite […]

Encephalon 71 welcomes new diners

The 71st edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just been served in the welcoming surroundings of the stylish Neuroanthropology blog. A couple of my favourites include a podcast interview with neuropsychologist Chris Frith from the Brain Science Podcast blog, and a post on the development of early language from Babel’s Dawn. […]

A hostage to hallucination

I’ve just found a morbidly fascinating 1984 study on hallucinations in hostages and kidnap victims. The paper is from the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease and contains case studies of people who have been held captive by terrorists, kidnappers, rapists, robbers, enemy troops and, er… UFOs. The reasoning behind including two ‘alien abductees’ was […]

On the information alarmageddon

New York Magazine has an article arguing that the concerns about digital technology drastically affecting our minds are just hype. I really wanted to like it but it’s just another poorly researched piece on the psychology of digital technology. Research has shown that distraction can improve exactly the sorts of skills that the digital doomsayers […]

Can’t put the thought genie back into the bottle

PsyBlog has an excellent piece on the counter-intuitive psychology of thought suppression – the deliberate attempt to not think of something that almost invariably backfires. The article is both fascinating from a scientific point-of-view but also important as a personal mental health resource if you’re one of the many people who intuitively think that the […]


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